Monday, November 4, 2013

New Jersey Alpaca Classic

This past Saturday Grace, Aiden and Naomi competed in the New Jersey Alpaca Classic with their 4-H club.  This was the biggest show we had been to yet and it was a great experience for us all.  We planned on only staying for half the day, but were having such fun that we decided to stay for the whole day.

The kids competed in two competitions with their alpacas.  The first was an agility course in which they needed to walk their alpaca through an obstacle course, demonstrating their ability to handle the alpaca gently yet with control.  The second was a showmanship competition in which they needed to demonstrate their ability to present their animal to a judge and answer questions about their alpaca.  This is what the adult owners were doing in the next ring over from us and was meant to train the kids now how to show an animal in the future.  We had no idea what to expect for this and weren't quite as prepared as we could have been, but it was a great learning experience.

(the event was inside, hence the blurry pictures because of poor lighting, but this one was too cute not to include)

They took 2nd (Naomi), 3rd (Grace) and 4th (Aiden) places in the agility course in the morning.  Poor Aiden was "slightly" disappointed that the 4th place ribbon had to be pink.  They were all pretty ecstatic though that they received such huge ribbons compared to the other competitions in which they competed in the past.

Aiden should have gotten bonus points for the fact that his alpaca gave the judge a kiss.

We just so love our 4-H club.  I have heard that not all clubs are alike and ours seems much smaller, and more relaxed than some, which we really like.  The kids are making friends, learning leadership skills, gaining responsibility and knowledge in the proper care of animals.  And it's fun!  They always look forward to the club meetings once a month and since the farm is less than 5 minutes away we can visit and work the animals whenever we want. 

And even though Asher and Claire are not technically in the club they always go along too and are going to make great club members someday if we keep it up.  Claire is hilarious and will walk right into the midst of a group of alpacas, completely unafraid and try to pet them all.  She is not afraid one bit, but she sure makes the rest of us nervous!

I love this picture of Grace and Colby....

Saturday, October 26, 2013

On finding solace

There has been a lot going on in our life recently that I have not written about because I just don't know who is reading and I would much rather talk to people in person without having to use the Internet as a medium.  But for the sake of posterity I do need to write some things out.  Processing in this way is somewhat helpful.

Two weeks ago my Dad was officially diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's.  He is only 62 and was fit, active, intelligent, caring, godly and wise.  I hate to say "was" because he still is all those things.  We were hoping against hope that it was something else.  At times it did seem like we may have figured out what it was only to realize that something still wasn't quite right.  After very extensive neurological testing it was concluded that he did in fact have this horrible disease.  He is "only" in the moderate stages, but it still affects his ability to work and drive which you can imagine is a huge blow.

Although I thought I was ok and was managing to act strong on the outside my body was telling me a different story and it started shutting down.  I know I am being totally vague here, but like I said, I don't know who is reading.  We ended up cutting back some of the major things we were doing such as tutoring and CC and I tried to spend time listening to the Lord as to what he wanted us to do rather than running around like a crazy woman trying to be supermom.  The cape was choking me anyway.  I wouldn't recommend it.

God is so good to us though.   A few months ago I started a new bible reading plan that had you reading (along with Old and New Testament readings) through the entire book of Psalms every couple of months.  This has been absolutely my daily bread during this trial.  During days when I didn't know if I could get out of bed I cried out to the Lord for mercy.  When my heart would start racing I would pray that God would be my rock and refuge, a hiding place in time of trouble.
I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love, because you have seen my affliction; you have known the distress of my soul, and you have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy; you have set my feet in a broad place.  Psalms 31:7-8

Having the words of the Psalms on the fore front of my mind has been invaluable and I thank the Lord that he prepared me ahead of time in this way.  I am also reading N.T. Wright's book The Case for the Psalms, which I also highly recommend for understanding and appreciating the Psalms better.

It's still hard.  It's hard to see Dad have to sell his truck because he can't drive anymore.  It is hard to see him step back from his pastoring job.  He has such a large heart and is such a caring soul.  It is hard to think of my Mom dealing with this and not being close enough to help more.  But this is our path to walk and we know that the LORD's lovingkindness will never leave us.  It is times like this that I am also thankful for the old hymns that I have memorized that pop into my head.... "Are we weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care? Precious Savior, still our refuge, take it to the Lord in prayer.  In His arms He’ll take and shield you; you will find a solace there.

Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the LORD. Psalms 32:10

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Mysterious Case of the Pied-Billed Grebe

Every morning after breakfast Grace goes outside with Asher to do the morning "barn chores" of feeding and watering the goats and chickens and collecting the eggs.  Last week Asher came excitedly back to the house yelling, "Mom, you will never believe what I found!"

On his way out to the chickens he had found this juvenille bird sitting in the grass between the goat shed and the barn.  Now normally you should leave wildlife alone unless you know for sure that it is hurt, but this bird was obviously a waterfowl with its webbed feet and I could not understand how it got to our property, which is nowhere near a pond or lake.  It also seemed unable to move very well since we could easily approach it and it did not seem like it could take off and fly, so we figured something must be wrong.

Those webbed feet and that pointy beak combination really had us baffled.  Was it a duck or a goose or something else?  The kids were sure it must be some extinct species after we  poured over all our bird identification books and could not manage to identify it.  The fact that it was a juvenile made it a bit more difficult because I knew it would not have the same markings as an adult but we thought we could at least make a good guess.  The closest thing it looked like was a Pied-Billed Grebe.
We called a local wildlife rehabilitation center and took it over that evening so they could help it.  The next day when I called to check on him the lady informed me that our bird was a Pied-Billed Grebe and it was a waterfowl and she had no idea how it ended up on our property.  I asked if maybe a hawk dropped it because that is how they kill their prey, but she didn't think so because it wasn't injured at all.  It was only unable to fly because it needed water and can not walk well on land.

So the only guess we can make is that since it was a young bird maybe it was flying along and over estimated its ability to fly very far and got so tired that it just dropped in our backyard.  Or maybe it landed on the barn roof for a break and lost its balance and fell off.  We'll never know.  But it did make for an interesting mystery to solve and a lot of new things learned about waterfowl in general.  Spontaneous nature study is always the best!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Fall Harvest at Peter Wentz

I mentioned before that Grace is apprenticing at the Peter Wentz Farmstead.  She helped out at Sheep Shearing day and two different summer camps this year.  This past Saturday she participated in the Fall Harvest helping out at the cider pressing demonstration. 

This was a much better experience for her than the last event because the man who who was running this demonstration knew more about apples, apple trees and apple cider than anyone I have every met.  One quick fact I learned of the hundreds that he shared with us is that during the 18th century there were over 4,000 known and named varieties of apples!  And all those different apples were known for their different purposes.  Some were good for keeping, some for eating right away (at-hand apples), sauce, pies, drying, and cider.   These you would be hard pressed to find more than 12 varieties in the store.

The other thing we learned is that you cannot grow apple trees from seed if you want to produce the same variety.  Because they are open pollinators you never know what you are going to get.  If you want a Macintosh apple tree you need to take a branch from a Macintosh apple tree and graft it on to another apple tree (usually a crab-apple) root stock.  The grafting process is fascinating in and of itself, but I won't bore you with the details. 

So Grace was very happy to be apprenticing at this station because she learned so much this time.

While Grace was hard at work making cider, the rest of us toured the other stations, had a tour of the house and the kids had fun playing with the colonial games.  My parents, my father-in-law and the kids' cousins had come up but I neglected to get any pictures of them.  Oops!

Claire had the most fun of all playing with the blacksmith's dog.  This was one of those great dogs that you could poke its eyes and pull its fur and it is still as gentle as can be, which is good because Claire sure loves animals!

Friday, October 11, 2013

More puppies are here!

I neglected to mention that Lily had her fourth litter of puppies on October 4th.  She had four puppies this time which is quite a big litter for her, but they are all doing great.  We had a bit of a scare a few days ago when she developed severe diarrhea and I had to rush her to the vet because she wouldn't eat or drink and I was afraid her milk supply would dry up.  Thankfully after they gave her some fluids she started to do better and now they are all doing fabulous.   I am going to try to keep the puppies pictures over on the puppy blog, but if you are one of those people who has a Pinterest board for cute animal pictures, these are for you.  ;)

I loved this picture of these two "spooning."

The kids are all very excited that there are two boys and two girls this time.  This means there is one puppy for each of them to hold (not including Claire of course).

Sunday, October 6, 2013


October has always been my favorite month.  I am not sure when it started.  Does it have something to do with my all time favorite U2 album, or that piece I played by Tchaikovsky titled October when I was in high school?  Did music start it or did it only add to its charm?  I loved the month so much when I was younger that I always said I would have an October wedding.  Unfortunately, with Christian still in college needing to finish up one more semester, we had to opt for a sweltering July wedding instead, although we will stubbornly insisted it be outside.

The first few days of this October have been unbelievable warm.  Here I am still wearing shorts and T-Shirts as I head out the back door in my bare feet to hang the laundry on the line, my feet crunching dead sycamore leaves that fell early due to lack of rain.

But it still smells like October.  The air is more clear and thin, not that heavy thick air of summer.  My hands smell of rich garden soil as I plant the fall crop of lettuce and spinach.   The kitchen stove has bubbling pots of apples for sauce and crab-apples for jelly.  The kitchen smells are divine.

The kids enjoyed iced tea outside on the walkway this week and had fun perfecting the art of bike riding without hands.

And of course there is applesauce, applesauce and more applesauce.  After we had finished up 8 bags I wondered if our Champion juicer with a large hole screen would work faster than the good old Victoria strainer that we usually use.  So I just had to buy 4 more bags to find out.  I really don't know what is wrong with me.  I can't just do things halfway.  I can't just be content with making a lot of applesauce, I have to make an insane amount of applesauce.  I guess when the kids could eat a quart a day if I let them I do have some justification for my insanity.  :)

 Thankfully Christian really enjoys making it with me (maybe it has something to do with using machinery) and we put over 100 quarts away in the freezer.  And yes, my freezer is mostly full of applesauce.  Using the Champion was so much faster and easier (not that it is that hard to begin with) and we are definitely going that way again next time.

I don't know about the rest of you on the east coast, but I am looking forward to cooler weather coming soon.  Heating up the kitchen when it is 83 degrees is not as much fun as when it is 63 degrees.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Ordinary Days

When you haven't blogged in two months you find it hard to get started again, thinking that you need to wait for something exciting to happen to make it worth your while.  But these days are ordinary days filled with the usual sameness that also brings much comfort with them.  And I am afraid that if I don't capture those ordinary days in some small way they will rush past in a hazy blur.  So blurry pictures and all, here we go.

I'm thankful for:
A pear harvest from our own pear tree; 

fall garden clean up and transplanting;
 a garden that was light on the tomatoes but heavy on the flowers, providing us with myriad vases of zinnias and marigolds;
 funny feather footed roosters as soft as a cloud to pick up and hold;
 curious and friendly goats, always happy to see you;
 outside play that could last all day if possible;
 graduating from the baby swing to the "big girl" swing;
 and school books read in comfort in the morning sunshine.
 Also for Jane Eyre in the mornings, Haydn in the afternoon, singing the "muffin man" for the 267th time with Claire, listening to Grace practice the violin and Aiden the horn, Naomi reading Tumble Bumble to Claire, all the kids helping stack wood for the winter and Christian helping me make applesauce late at night.

I hope to be back here more regularly...

Thursday, August 1, 2013

More Maine fun

Family picture in the canoe, named for my grandpop, the first man of canoes in our family.  He doesn't know that we named the canoe after him, so I think this picture framed would make a great Christmas present!
Playing tag on the front lawn.  Does this look heavenly or what?

Yesterday was our 14th anniversary, so we decided it was a good day to attempt the hardest hike we have tried with the whole family.  White Cap Mountain on the Appalachian trail was a gorgeous hike, well maintained, but seriously tough!  It was a little over 6 miles and 4 1/2 hours round trip of strenuous hiking, and everyone (even Lily!) except Claire hiked the whole thing with nary a complaint.
Sure, some rests were needed, but we were up and moving again in no time. 
We had to slow the beastly mountain man down by making him carry Claire and the backpack.  He actually was sore after this hike!
Nearing the top!

Christian passed this sign 20 years ago when he hiked the whole Appalachian Trail with his friend (later brother-in-law).

White Cap Mountain was definitely a new favorite hike, despite being so arduous.  The views from the open top were spectacular.  Even though it was way out in the wilderness we met several  hikers who were on their way to Katahdin (the end of the Appalachian trail).  Some were through hiking and some were doing it in sections over several summers and this was their final leg on the journey.

We had a nice chat with an older couple who had set up camp by the shelter and they supplied us with some filtered water from the mountain stream.  We all looked wistfully at their set-up as they sat there sipping their hot coffee, listening to the sound of the running water thinking how nice it would be to camp out.  We are thinking next year a two-day hike with a camp out will be on the to-do list.   What a great way to spend our anniversary.

I don't have a picture, but my mom also made it up this killer of a mountain  Go Mom!!  My poor Dad had to stop about 1/2 a mile from the top, not quite feeling up to doing the whole thing.  Next year Dad!

We left the kids in town with my parents for pizza and Christian and I quickly rushed home to clean up before making it a few minutes late for our reservations at Maynard's for dinner.  What a day!
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