The best part of spring

It’s no secret that I love winter. I love snow. I love the sports of cold weather. Yesterday we mentioned something about snow melting to our kids and they were almost in tears, “Nooooo!”

The last weeks of winter, like the last weeks of every season, are the loveliest. Skiing under blue skies. When it’s 29 degrees and the kids wear their bathing suits because it’s so “warm” and we drive with the windows down. (really)

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(this is really our backyard!)

P1120185As seems to be our tradition, we got our last hay delivery last weekend- the end of March in the snow. I have a picture almost exactly like this from last winter. John would tell you that it’s time for the snow to go. Chores are much harder in winter- no doubt!

In some ways, snow keeps us from feeling the urgency of planting and outdoor work, not that there isn’t work in winter- we heat with wood- but it feels different.

But I look forward to spring too. We had a conversation about spring and what we look forward to a few nights ago and the answers were pretty predictable:

Tapping trees, drinking sap, and making maple syrup

Watching the plants begin to grow and daily walks around the perennial bed to see what’s woken up

Baby animals

Climbing in the apple tree

Planting the garden

Those are wonderful, but for me the best part of spring is the feeling it quickens inside, the feeling that anything is possible. There is so much energy. It seems like the year is just starting in a sense and we can do it all. The things that have held us back in the past seemingly won’t any longer. Any feeling of winter doldrums is offset and worth that through the roof elation.

P1120150Until then, we’ll be skiing every day we can.

Does spring hit you in that same way? What do you love about spring?

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It’s too much trouble to go to the beach.

We’ll wait for another day,

When the floors are scrubbed

And the clothes are washed

And everything’s put away.

And then one day my work was done-

“Let’s go to the beach,” I said.

And I looked outside, the wind was cold

And summer’s leaves were red…..

As a recovering household perfectionist, who went to bed each night with the clothes put away, the dishes washed, and toys picked up, I realized a couple nights ago how much I have embraced the messiness of life at the moment…and it’s not even summer or fall when I would normally attribute a less than stellar home to the season. It’s winter, for goodness sake!

I got the kids to bed and sat down at the table, looked around, and laughed. Out loud.

The table was covered with crumbs. I couldn’t enter either room at the top of the stairs for the pile of clothes to be put away. The dishes to be washed extended far beyond the sink. Toys were literally everywhere.

And yet, I’d spent the day taking the kids skiing, gotten them out to play with the baby goats, we’d found Jupiter, Venus, and Mars in the night sky, and we’d baked a fancy tart all together.

It’s hard for me to let go of my perfectionism. That I think I should be able to do all of those fun things with the kids and keep the house clean. Ha!

Instead, we might have baby goats in the house, and we’re going to track mud in, and we’re eating real food so we have to make it all from scratch and the kids love to change their clothes…and why not!

There are so many things to do in a day and so many things I’d love to explore the idea of, learn how to do, and experience and at the same time so much upkeep on our daily life. I have lots of little habits that I do (or attempt), and sometimes I start to wonder how many of them I really should do. They all feel important to me (of course!), but I’d wager a lot of them might not be (which ones?).

Should I be doing the dishes? Or is it more important to read a book?

Should I take the kids skiing? Or should I finish a project?

Should I be spending time exercising? Or is it more important to play a game with the kids?

I get up early to read and have quiet to myself, but even that requires ignoring the kids for a time because they often get up early too.

I read a fascinating article recently that said we should be reading books and growing ourselves rather than only dealing with all the chores of daily life. You could take this to an extreme and never do dishes or laundry again, but that’s not the point. The idea is that we can fritter away all of our time (plus some!) taking care of the immediate needs of our family and household and miss the greater picture and in the end not be the person that our family needs us to be because our brains have atrophied in the process.

I hear that and it makes so much sense to me, but don’t you just want someone to put a wand over your life and tell you what that should look like? I don’t want to be the extreme of not spending enough time with my family because I have too much of my own agenda and projects.

Blah, blah, blah. Right?

I’d love to hear what you think and how you strike a balance between caring for your family and growing your brain and person. Is this something you’ve thought about?

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Meet the kids

P1120128 P1120132We are celebrating 12 goat kids on the ground!

Although we often debate the merits of goats for our farm, we all agree that nothing beats goat babies. They are so little and sweet.

In the past kidding has been mostly uneventful, with the exception of last year when we had only one baby and it died within a day. Usually the moms push out the babies easily- we just go out to the barn one day and there are healthy babies on the ground. We have never had birthing troubles….until this year.

I wrote before that I had become a goat midwife once- make that twice. I was shocked last week when John came into the house and told me I needed to get out to the barn NOW because there was another mom having problems. It is new territory for me to be the authority about anything regarding the animals! My first comment was something to the effect of “but I haven’t read anything about animal midwifery yet!”

In this situation, what worked before didn’t work. It was the same presentation with the head out to the neck, plus one foot. I couldn’t dislodge this one, but the mom was in much better shape than in the last situation. I didn’t feel that it warranted yanking it out for awhile. We were able to get ahold of a woman who does assist goats in labor and she came out, tried the same thing I was doing and was unsuccessful, and then made the call that we had to just yank the baby out. Those are the calls that are hard! In both cases, we were certain that the baby was dead and were purely thinking of saving the mom. And in both cases the baby came out fine. Very thankful and amazing to witness what I considered a miracle. It was great to watch someone else who knows more than me, and before she left she told me that now she knows who to call if she ever needs help (me!).

P1120106Our kids were witness to the ups and downs of kidding. They all watched a couple babies physically come out of the moms- witnessing a live birth is about the best homeschooling ever. They watched when I played midwife and it didn’t go smoothly. When babies were born in the night and John brought them in to warm them, they helped dry them off while we discussed umbilical cords and the needs of babies. And they also loved a lot on one that eventually died. And we talked through that too.

P1120065It was our first kid of the season. John had gone out to check the animals at 10 pm and then again at 6 am a couple weeks ago, and sometime in between one kid had been born. It was well below zero that night and the baby was in the coldest spot in the barn. John thought it was dead at first, but he saw that it was breathing, so he brought it in the house.

Its legs were completely solid from cold. I felt them. We started warming him up, warning the kids that this one would likely not make it, but that we’d do our best. He kept breathing. He stood a little bit, but his back legs never worked right. We took him with us everywhere to watch him and help all we could (literally he rode around in the minivan with us). The second day he rallied a little. Enough that we named him- Popsicle. But the third day it was clear to all of us that he wasn’t going to live. Later, John read that if a baby’s legs freeze, they will never be able to use them- we hadn’t realized that- but we did all we could.

As we found that Popsicle had died and were talking through it with our kids, John went out to the barn and from the house, I could hear a baby crying. It was literally at the same moment.

Goat kidding means that John has multiple trips to the barn each night to check on everyone. Because we need more sleep deprivation around this house! :) With it being winter we have to make sure the babies are dry and warm and all of them have required a little time in front of the woodstove. It seems like once they get a day under them, they are good to go and handle the cold just fine.

P1120079 P1120093Our job now is visiting the goats every day and spending time with them in the barn, otherwise called chasing them and picking them up. We want them to be used to us and easy to handle and there is no other way for that to happen than spending lots of time with them when they are little.

I see fun aspects to my kids that I wouldn’t otherwise know. Like that BenBen is amazing with babies and truly loves them so much (this is true with our baby too, not just goats). Hannah has grown less fearful of the animals. Sammy is soaking it all in; he’s always loved the goats. Even Micah plays with the goat babies, although they don’t particularly like his kind of play…at least I know the goats won’t bite him when he pulls their hair!

We don’t do a lot with the goats overall, but it’s hard to imagine not having this experience. I know I have grown from it.

Hooray for babies!

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The day you make or the day that happens to you

In John and Amy speak, “I got farmed”.

There is that hard balance of allowing life to evolve around us and trying to force out of our days what we want. I’ve been thinking about it this week and especially yesterday when I became a goat midwife.  One baby was stuck in a mom, not coming out right, and John was in Augusta…up to my elbow inside a goat, thinking the baby was dead and certainly the mom would have died….and everyone lived. I would have never thought I could do that, much less be okay with it, and I would have never done it if John had been home- of course that’s his department. My day was full and wonderful but not at all what I thought I was going to do.

Yes, yours truly. Goat midwife.

It’s often said that we never know what we can endure or do until we have to do it. If I had not been there, 3 babies and 1 mama goat would have died. One baby had been abandoned by its mother and it was cold and wet. I simply dried it off, got it warm, and I tried to get colostrum out of one of the mama goats, but couldn’t get anyone to let down for me more than a tablespoon. So, I fed it some of my colostrum that was in a freezer bag. Yep, human colostrum in a goat.

What else could I do? It needed to eat. You can laugh- John did.

Then, there was the goat stuck with head and one leg out of a mama and her unable to push it out- for two hours. I got instructions over the phone of what needed to happen, but let me tell you that inside a goat, it all feels like slime and it’s hard to find that leg and then dislodge it. I had the leg but I couldn’t move it. I tried pushing the head back in to get another start on it all coming out the right way, but I couldn’t do that either. The mama was so weak she could no longer stand or push much.

My fiddling with the baby inside her unstuck it and she was able to get it pushed enough that I could pull it out the rest of the way.

That’s when the vet arrived. One healthy baby. The vet was concerned that there could be another inside and the mama had no ability to push more. I’m so glad she came because there was another baby and the vet pulled it out and plopped it in my lap to clean it and care for it.

It was not the plan I had for the day. I was going to take the kids sledding and clean a couple rooms of the house and call a friend and maybe even get to a sewing project I’ve been itching to do. But holding to my plans would have made me miss the blessing of a day and experience I won’t forget. The day that happened to me was greater than the one I had planned.

I think that making plans and fighting to accomplish our goals is important (and you know this about me!), but then there is a line of accepting and embracing what happens to us. I have to fight for my goals and yet I can’t hold onto those goals too tightly.

When have you found this to be true?

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In February

February was all about embracing winter and winter activities. We skated. We skied. We went sledding. We snowshoed. We used an outdoor skating rink in addition to our normal indoor one (an entirely different experience for the kids). Although I had two amazing ideas for adventures for this month, neither of them were a go because of car issues. Next year we’re going to be all over Winterfest and the World Pond Hockey Championships! Instead, we took a winter fun day- skating, skiing, and watching the high school state championships for downhill and nordic skiing- so fun! Except now my kids want to downhill ski too- and yes, I knew that would likely be a thing.

My goals…

  • special breakfasts for Chinese New Year and Valentines Day
  • date with John
  • dates with kids
  • take the kids to the indoor rec center and the pool
  • take the kids to the nursing home and work at the food pantry
  • skate once a week
  • ski once a week
  • fall when I go skiing
  • finish catching up scrapbooks
  • take the kids to the library
  • check out a new library and thrift store
  • re-do our fireplace mantle
  • make a seed/tree plan for our farm this year
  • clean out my craft closet
  • have guests over for dinner
  • monthly family adventure

From the bookshelf…

  • The Big Fat Surprise by Nina Teicholz (amazing! I’m re-reading now.)
  • A Closer Walk by Catherine Marshall
  • Dissolving Illusions: Disease, Vaccines, and the Forgotten History by Suzanne Humphries

What is working…

I still love real food. It’s becoming routine. Occasionally I get snacky urges, but not as often now.

I tried a ski race! I first thought of doing one last week and then there was an 8K race last weekend, so I went for it. I wasn’t last (my hope!), although I was far from the best. And I beat two 10-year olds right at the end. :) I would definitely do it again.

Homeschool routine is still good, but I find myself less and less able to keep up around the house. I vaguely remember last winter and my daily afternoon time to read and knit or sew, but it is a far away land. I did that every single day last winter and I’ve not done it once this year. Instead my afternoons are spent trying to catch up on laundry or dishes but even those I’m not ever totally accomplishing. It’s the baby season- it’s just hard to do much when you have a little one. I am mourning the loss of an orderly home, time for me, finishing things on a list…and I’m happy, but there is still a sense of grieving.

My March goals…

  • fun breakfasts for St. Patricks Day and the first day of spring
  • date with John
  • dates with kids
  • take the kids to the pool, the library, and the indoor rec center
  • watch dogsledding
  • visit a maple sugar house
  • tap trees for our own maple syrup
  • learn about tree grafting and make a plan for propogating plants this year, build a misting chamber
  • skate and ski once a week
  • work on toy room organization
  • read a book by a local author
  • take the kids to the food pantry and the nursing home
  • listen to 3 homeschooling podcasts
  • make donuts with the kids
  • take the kids downhill skiing
  • monthly family adventure

What’s the best book that you’ve read lately?

Posted in Learning/Goals | 2 Comments

We outkicked our expectations on this one

Yeah, welcome to 1986. I know.

P1120057Our kids couldn’t figure out what all the buttons on this key could possibly be for. They were amazed…doors that automatically open, interior lights that they can turn on and off, personal fans that they can adjust, cup holders. To say they were blown away by the amenities of our new vehicle would be an understatement.

We have leather, heated seats, and this vehicle has those clip-ins for car seats so you don’t have to buckle them with the seat belt. It took us 5 days to realize that we could even play CD’s…we haven’t had a vehicle that played CD’s for 10 years. I told John that we might have gone a little too nice, that maybe it was too great a leap.

John laughed at me. “Amy, it’s a 10-year old car! It’s not like it’s brand new.” Point taken.

The kids were instantly singing its praises over the Safari van, which they never complained about- they accepted its quirks, and in fact they loved it in its time- we all did. It reinforced to me that you start with the low end and move up, so you’re always thrilled. If you look at the nicest house at the top of your price range first, nothing else is going to look very good. I guess we went the right direction on this one.

P1120058And there it is. We are officially minivan drivers. I accept it.

It led us to an interesting thought-conversation over the weekend about what point in the life-cycle of a car does it make sense to own. Clearly the greatest financial loss is at the front-end, but buying a clunker at the end of its life is cheap but could cost a lot in repairs. Does it make the most sense to buy in the middle and sell before it gets to major repair stage? What are those lines? It all depends on the vehicle because you have to have a vehicle someone wants to make it work out. How much should a vehicle cost per year? We have our thoughts, but I’d love to hear your philosophy if you have one.

Do you have a vehicle buying philosophy? Have you ever made a huge leap in vehicle or home or something else that blew you all away in terms of your expectations?

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The words I needed to hear

This morning, I felt compelled to open up my blog reader and one article immediately jumped out at me. It was by Crystal Paine and it was just what I needed to hear.

“Anyone can be a coward. Here’s how: You just stick with things so long as there is no danger, pain, or hurt. When anything uncomfortable or hard comes your way, a coward balks and runs.

Yes, it’s simple and easy to be a coward. But there’s little joy or fulfillment. You never get to experience the rewards of hard work. You never get the thrill of jumping outside your comfort zone. You never get to know what it’s like to punch fear in the face.”

I am this coward. I get stuck in my routines and resist change beyond my comfort level. I resist doing things at times because it would interrupt a routine I like, or at least that’s what I say, but fear is at the core of it. Fear of the unknown. Fear of doing something different. Fear of challenging my deeply held beliefs.

It’s much easier to just read my stack of books in the morning than pray and really expect God to speak to my heart. It’s laziness on my part and it assures that I will never be asked to do anything beyond what I’m comfortable with. I can read a book and pick and choose what I should do, but to pray is to open myself much more.

If evidence challenges something I believe in, my first inclination is to brush it aside or ridicule it, not to listen to the facts. I want what I have been doing or thinking to be true. A few months ago, I would have told you that the way I was eating was fine and there was no reason to change any of it, but now that I’ve been on exclusively real food for over a month, I know I’m not going back. The change was somewhat small (no packaged tortillas, pasta, chips, or sweets I don’t make myself are the main differences). Yet, being conscious in this allows me to be open to diet changes that are even more drastic.

You never know where a little adventure or break from the norm is going to take you.

This winter I committed to falling each time I go cross country skiing. Falling is never what I want to do, but I’ve done it, and I have slowly seen my confidence and ability to ski improve. Don’t get me wrong- it’s not like I’m a good skier now- I’m not! But I’m going down hills I used to avoid. Instead of snowplowing down hills to slow myself down, I’m realizing that I don’t need to (although sometimes I do!). I can ski on more trails now. Last weekend, a couple ladies invited me to ski with them. They took me on trails I hadn’t done before and I could enjoy a ski while getting to know them. I even had a small thought that I’d like to try a ski race, not because I’d be good- I’d be terrible- but because it would be fun to try it. Previously my fear of falling and going down hills kept me from imagining that’s something I would ever do.

Maybe I could even try downhill skiing. That scares me too.

Instead of resisting intrusions to my plans, I should welcome them as adventures. If something is the right thing to do, it’s right and I will never regret it, even if it’s uncomfortable. You would think that I’ve already learned this lesson- I’ve been through it so many times, but I keep having to experience it again.

I want to live courageously and truly live. The best way to do this, I’m realizing, is in the little things. Because we all know that the little things make all the difference.

Where have you found this to be true? 

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