Archive for October, 2011

Inaugural Ladies’ Homestead Gathering Retreat

October 31, 2011

I’m still basking in the memories of the retreat as they filter through my mind while I try to get back to life here on the farm.

When I sat at this table this summer, taking notes and dreaming about what it would be like to actually have a retreat focused solely on homesteading, my dreams couldn’t begin to conceive all the emotional/relational gifts that would be mine after a weekend together with like-minded women.

After my friend and I waved good-bye to the last car as it made it’s way down the mountain, re-checked all the rooms and buildings, and put our own belongings into the truck, my very good friend suggested we sit on the back porch to “breathe” before we headed down the mountain ourselves.

While we sat in the rocking chairs, breathing in the crisp fall air of dusk, surrounded by the incredible beauty of the Appalachian Mountains, we reminisced about the activities and conversations of the last 48 hours.

And then she asked me a very poignant question – Did the weekend meet the expectations I had for a Ladies’ Homestead Retreat?

Moments before we sat together on the porch, I had to make my way up the path to the Guest House to look for a walking stick that had been left behind.  In the quiet solitude and alone with my  thoughts, I had been thinking about all the “firsts” and “victories” that had happened over the weekend for these women and my heart welled with incredible emotion, almost to the point of tears.

This retreat went far beyond my expectations….

As we rocked back and forth in our weather worn rockers, I shared that with all those “firsts”  and “victories” came a sense of accomplishment when a new skill was learned; self-worth when added knowledge was given to a conversation; self-confidence when a fear was overcome or a goal successfully achieved; a belief in who they are as a person, that they matter, when hugs and words of affirmation were given after they shared a part of their “story.”

You can never ever buy or purchase those gifts for another person – you can only offer the opportunity to try and the encouragement and hand holding to let them know you believe in them with all your heart.

The cheering and the clapping resounding in the valley when one of the gals successfully split a piece of wood with an axe; the applause and “atta girl!” for the first time teacher of one of the classes; those light bulb moments when a concept or plant identification  was understood and grasped;  the “come on, you can do it!!” whether they were trucking to the top of the mountain or picking a chicken for the first time – these are the results of sisterhood, friendship, a community of like-minded women.

Time after time this weekend, my heart rejoiced as I watched each woman receive the gift of self-worth, self-confidence, “you matter.”

This was OUR weekend, we all made it happen, we all had a part in its success…

And we all shared in the joy and blessing of friendship.

In May,when I sat at that little table on the porch of a rustic log building and scribbled notes and ideas for a ladies’ homestead retreat, little did I know that the reality of those dreams would far exceed any of my expectations.

Thank you ladies, my friends, for an incredible weekend.


Creative Alternative??

October 24, 2011

I finally finished the scarf I’ve been working on!!

I was able to get a lot of it done yesterday at the festival where I had a booth.  Once Megan got there, around lunch time, I handed over the reins and sat in a chair to knit.  I do find it very difficult to just sit and knit but since I didn’t have any other responsibilities, I thought it would be the perfect time to work on this scarf.

It’s true – knitting does get faster the more you do it and pretty soon I was zipping along….

well, maybe not zipping, but faster than I had been!

I was so close to finishing and we had to tear down the booth and head home.

Later, the kids wanted to watch a movie – I wanted to go to bed but then I remembered the scarf.

Of course I’ll watch the movie!!

And I finished knitting the scarf –  pleased with how it turned out.

However, there’s one slight problem…

I don’t know how to get it off the knitting needle.

So, being the constant problem solver that I am, I decided perhaps the knitting needle would look good as a fastener for the scarf!

What do you think!!?

Too Good Not to Share!

October 18, 2011

An old lady, Tootsie, from Wisconsin had worked in and around her family dairy farms since she was old enough to walk, with hours of hard work and little compensation.

When canned Carnation Milk became available in grocery stores in the 1940’s, she read an advertisement offering $5,000 for the best slogan.

The producers wanted a rhyme beginning with “Carnation Milk is best of all.”

She thought to herself, I know everything there is to know about milk and dairy farms.  I can do this!

She sent in her entry, and several weeks later, a black car pulled up in front of her house.

A large man got out, knocked on her door and said, “Ma’am, …The President of Carnation Milk absolutely LOVED your entry….so much, in fact, that we are here to award you $1,000 even though we will not be able to use it for our advertisements!”

He did, however, have one printed up to hang on his office wall.

Candid Corner: Homesteading-Raw and Uncensored

October 14, 2011

Oft times when I mention that I have a homestead on 7 acres, I get similar reactions…

“Oh, how wonderful!”

“I’ve always wanted to live like that…”

“It must be so rewarding…”

Homesteading often conjures up mental images of fuzzy baby chicks, white fluffy lambs, contented cows lazily munching in green lush pastures… the satisfaction of fresh picked produce, frothy warm goat’s milk in a bucket, and farm fresh eggs plucked from a nesting box.

And while all these images are true, there are days when homesteading is just plain raw, ugly and painful.

Remember Marbles?  Our goat who was sick a couple of weeks ago and I wasn’t certain what was wrong with her?

Well, she recovered and was her ornery self, pushing the other goats away from the feed trough, butting everyone in the head to maintain her dominance.  We loved her – she had so much personality and she was the first goat on our farm, a birthday gift to Victoria.

Tori taught her to run and jump into her arms.  Marbles made great babies and was a good momma.

About a week ago, I was feeding the goats and noticed something on Marbles leg, a fluid that had dripped down her leg.  I looked underneath her belly and noticed a wound on her udder.

I had Megan help me get Marbles onto the milk stand so I could get a better look.  There was a hole on the inside of her udder between the two teats.  It was nasty looking and I wasn’t sure if she had torn her udder.  I poured peroxide on it to clean out the beginning stages of infection.  Yeah, it stung – you could tell because the pupils in Marbles eyes got really big.

We let her off the stand and she stood in the corner of the barn for a while.  I watched and soon she was back to bossing around the other goats – no more pain.

Over the next couple of days, the wound got bigger and soon half her udder was dangling, the teat looking leathery and hard.  I was beside myself about what to do and what made it worse, Marbles was acting very normal- eating well, playing with the other goats.

Finally yesterday, the wound was worse and I knew that I had to put her down before this situation got to the point where it was an emergency.  I’d been agonizing over this decision, hoping every day that I went to the barn that by some miracle, I would see some improvement.  I talked with a couple of friends who own animals.  We tossed around ideas but the final conclusion was – Marbles would have to have surgery to correct the problem.

You want to know about raw homesteading?  It’s when your emotions and logic conflict, when your heart says “whatever it takes” and your mind says “at what cost.”  When your memory replays all the videos of your children bottle feeding this goat, “napping” with this goat, standing in awe as this goat gave birth to two beautiful babies…

And your practical side looks at a 9 year old goat who can no longer give birth or nurse a baby or provide milk for the family; calculating the monetary cost of a surgery that may or may not work.

It’s awful.  And it hurts.  And it keeps me awake at night and wakes me in the morning…

And I alone have to make the final decision on the life of this goat, our pet – whether she lives or dies.

That is the reality of raw, uncensored homesteading.

At 5:30pm, it was decided that Marbles would be put down at 7pm.  Tears filled my eyes when I hung up the phone after making the arrangement.  A friend’s brother-in-law would come to our farm and bring his gun.

I went into the bathroom and called a close friend of mine and cried, making sure that I was doing the right thing.  It’s a lonely ache that invades your heart in moments like this.  My 14 year old wanted to be there when Marbles was put down.  As a mom, I wanted to protect her from this harsh reality.  She wants to be a vet – should I let her be a part of this experience?  My husband was unavailable…my heart won in this instance and I decided that I would stay with Marbles and not her.

I dug the hole with the tractor and Tori and Megan finished cleaning it out with the shovel.  I had a hair appointment in town at 6:15p.  As I headed home and turned onto our dirt road, I allowed my mind to replay the memories and I cried again.  I drove down our driveway, there was Marbles nuzzling through wind blown leaves looking for acorns, snatching them up and munching them with a very satisfied look on her face.

The gentleman who came to help us arrived.  He asked me a question and the tears choked my throat and I couldn’t answer.  Megan came out and I put Molly, our Border Collie, in the house and picked up the leash for Marbles.  I’d composed myself with these tasks and could converse one again.

I walked into the goat pen, hooked the leash on Marble’s collar and headed out the gate toward the back of the pasture.  Twice, she dug her hooves into the ground and didn’t want to move.  The last time was just as we approached the hole in the ground.

“Ugh – please don’t make this any harder than it is…”

The gentleman was so sweet.  He took the leash and asked me if I wanted to go to the house.

“No- I’ll stay but I won’t watch.  I’ll just stand over here and wait.”


…and then the gun shot.  My breath caught in my throat with an audible ache from my heart.   And I listened.


When I turned around, he was dragging Marble’s body into the hole we’d dug for her.

It was over…the wrestling, the anguish, the torment about what to do.  Though my heart wanted to argue, I knew I had made the right decision.

He offered to cover her for me.

“No thank you – I’m okay.”

Megan was immediately by my side, having come down from the house.

We chatted for a bit with this gentleman, so grateful for his help. I offered to pay him.

No, no payment, just glad he could help and oh, by the way, “call me again ma’am if you ever need to put down another.”

I walked him to his truck, he handed me Marbles collar and leash, I shook his hand and thanked him again.

Dusk was creeping in, the moon rising and I wanted to cover the body well so the coyotes would stay away.  I headed back to pasture and climbed onto the tractor.  Within minutes, Marbles was buried.

Megan hopped on the tractor with me and we drove back up to the house.  Megan leaned over and said, “Mom, she’s grazing with Emma in those beautiful pastures along with all our other animals.  We have a farm waiting for us!”

A beautiful, star filled sky and a brilliant full moon…my girls who offered hugs and sweet tenderness.

No one ever told me about these kind of days when I chose to homestead.  Perhaps because the emotional heartache of days like this one, so raw and uncensored, are soothed and consoled by fuzzy baby chicks, fluffy white lambs, and contented cows lazily munching in lush green pastures…

Potting Shed Transformation to Farm Store

October 11, 2011

Several years ago, while I was in Canada with my eldest, Dave and the rest of the kids, built a potting shed for me.

It was probably the hottest week of the summer here in GA but they were so excited about their surprise for me.

I LOVED the new building and was reluctant to put any dirty tools in the shed because I had so much fun decorating it.

As with a lot of outbuildings around a farm, it soon became a storage place for items that had no home but were sure to be used in the future 🙂

There were a lot of “treasures” in this potting shed only you couldn’t find them for all the other junk that was tossed in there.

As Dave put it, this building became overwhelming and depressing.

It’s been on my to-do list for a while, I was just waiting for the right moment to attack this monumental mess.

Lynn SirLouis had been to a couple of the Ladies’ Homestead Gatherings and one night we were chatting…

She was experiencing some major life changes but the door was opening for her to pursue what she really wanted to do – an opportunity to follow some dreams and passions.

She’d been up in the garden one night before our Ladies’ Homestead Gathering meeting and she asked me about the potting shed.

I winced and said yeah – it was in sore need of a make-over and I really wanted to turn it into a Farm Store.

She lit up.  This was her forte, her passion…

Lynn loved to transform spaces.  She asked if she could take on this project.

Oh gee – I really had to think about this one…for a about a second!

Yes, of course!

Lynn came out on a Thursday and started to gut the building,

It truly is amazing how much “stuff” you can cram into a space.  This is after the 3 – 4 large garbage bags full were removed.

And truthfully, I couldn’t get it all in one shot.

We chose a color scheme and she asked me what I liked – a look and feel.

Then Lynn went to work…

This is an antique window that Dave purchased from another friend of mine, Christine, who owns Along the Line Antiques in downtown Statham.

It’s beautiful and the view looks out over a ten acre pasture next door.

Lynn painted the edge black and it “popped”!

We chose a sage green hue for paint.  I wanted all the natural wood left as is – I love old wood.  The rest of the back wall was painted.

Lynn also bought a complimentary green stain for the floor.  It looks fabulous!!

The front doors were painted this burnt orange/red color.

Lynn transformed the old white cupboard that was stuffed in the back of the shed.

The honey displays so beautifully in the case.

Lynn took and old drawer from a small cabinet that I was going to throw away and painted the drawer with chalkboard paint so I could write the price for the shirts on the front.  Great idea and I love the look.

I was given this antique scale and we took the egg basket from the kitchen to display eggs out in the farm store.

The kids and I put in the farm bell.  It belonged to my family and we had it at our home in NH.


Lynn’s not finished yet but I couldn’t wait to show you what she’s done so far.

The best part about all this??

Her passion and mission is using items that I already own and if something is needed – off to Goodwill she goes!

The name of her new business??

The Tightwad Decorator 🙂

I love it and I really love the new look for our Lazy B Farm Store!

Preparing a Pelt

October 7, 2011

I bought a lamb from a friend of mine who raises sheep for meat.  She took my sheep to the butcher yesterday to be processed.

Another of our friends who also raises sheep had one of her lamb’s pelts made into a small rug or throw.  It’s beautiful and so soft.

Jan and I decided we wanted one too 🙂

The butcher saved the pelt for me and Jan brought it over last night during Knit and Spin.  We spread it out on the floor in the basement away from the other animals.

Then we put a thick layer of salt all over the pelt.  The salt will absorb the moisture.

This is what it looked like after being salted.  It will stay like this for a while and then I’ll ship it to a company in Penn where they will tan the hide and wash the wool.  It’s not that expensive to do.  One of these days I’ll try to do the whole process myself.

For now, we’re just going to take it a little bit at a time!

And btw- it’s become the newest project in the Knit and Spin group.  Another friend of mine took Edward’s (our cow) hide and she and her husband are doing the whole process themselves!!  Now that’s a major job!  But she says, so far so good 🙂

A Few Kind Words…

October 3, 2011

Last week, a good friend of mine called one morning.

No particular reason except to say I was being thought of at the time.

My friend went on to give me one of the greatest gifts that day… words of encouragement and support for what I do as a mom and with the farm.

It wasn’t a long phone call – a few moments perhaps.  But moments that stayed with me the rest of the day and made me smile.

Those kind words lifted my spirits, gave me strength in decisions that had to be made, and best of all, let me know that I meant something to someone.

And what was the cost to my friend?

The breath to speak those words and the courage to act on what the heart was prompting.

Why is it we’re often afraid to say a few kind words to others?  Those kind words are a gift from the heart, wrapped in love.

And the ripple effect of those words is endless.

I know I spoke more kindly to my children, looked for opportunities to boost someone else’s spirits the way mine had been, and was grateful to have a friend who took the time to share kind words with me.

So unexpected, unpretentious, so heartfelt.

Since my children were small, I have worked with them on finding something good to say to others. We practice in the check out lines at stores.  I’ve told them, even if it’s just that you like their necklace, tell them so and watch…

A smile, eye contact, a kind word, and then – the transformation of the face behind the counter.

It’s fun and it costs us nothing but the breath with which to speak the words.

My mother in-law gave me this advice early on when my children were young…

“Cyndi, you’ll have to say ‘no’ so many times to children that you must constantly be on the look out for the opportunities to say ‘yes’.”

I took this to heart and worked at it, often turning a negative situation into a positive so I could say yes.

I try to take this same approach with others.  Why is it we find it easier to be critical instead of uplifting?  Instead of speaking something that would tear down a person, I try to find something positive to lift them up.

Yeah, it’s a little intimidating and makes me feel vulnerable but I like the results.

And if the kind words are scoffed or ridiculed, I know that person really needed them!

But that rarely happens…instead, there is a softening in the person’s countenance and a genuine smile lights up their face or a thank you is spoken.

All people, no matter the age or status, want to know that they matter…

And a few kind words can fulfill that wanting.

I know because my friend gave me the gift of encouraging, uplifting words and it made my day.

The cost of the gift?  The breath of life and a voice to speak…

What a difference those words made for me.

Thank you, my friend.