Dream Big

HarlequinSwanIf you have read some of my posts or followed me on Instagram you will already know that I have quite a few ducks on our farm. I believe the count is currently at twenty-two.  With this sizable flock, my summer was largely spent keeping plastic baby pools filled, dumped and filled again with clean water. If you don’t know, ducks are messy, really messy. Our resident chef, aka my loving husband calls them “cement makers”. They make mud, lots of mud and then stamp it down with their little webbed feet. Despite this fact, I love them…. I love the sounds they make, I love seeing the bonds they make with other ducks, but I mostly love watching them play in the water.

It only took a couple summer months of constant water refills before I knew we needed something big, something much larger than what we working with. So, we hopped in our small pick-up and headed to the feed store. (On a side note, for those of my friends who live in the city and don’t know where to get themselves a pitchfork or a cool pair of overalls, the feed store is the farmer’s Target or Walmart .) Shortly thereafter, we found ourselves with a three hundred gallon stock tank strapped in the back of our truck. The volume of the stock tank is greater than that of our truck bed so, I will let you imagine what we looked like driving home.

Our stock tank is awesome, it allows for more than one or two ducks to swim at the same time, which is a great plus if you enjoy watching ducks as much as I do. If for some strange reason we decide not to have ducks, (but why would we?) we can make ourselves one of those cool cowboy hot tubs you see all over Pinterest. That of course, would be after a major cleaning, because as I have stated before, ducks are messy! I was reminded of this fact the other day while I was performing my monthly draining of the duck tank. The faucet valve didn’t work and I had to use the shop vac to suck out the murky green water. After too many fill and dumps to count, I reached the bottom, a thick layer of muck and bloated eggs. What most people don’t know is that ducks, especially young ducks will often lay their eggs while walking about or even swimming. Filling and dumping the shop vac is unpleasant enough, but I seriously began to reconsider my decision to have ducks while sucking up their stinky sludge.

It is easy to forget in the difficult times why we do the work, why we push through the muck and mire, wear the bumps, bruises and blisters, just to go to bed at night exhausted, wake up in the morning and do it all over again. When I fill the tank with fresh clean, although somewhat sulphur smelling well water and the ducks begin to dive in and splash around with excitement, I remember why. It is in these moments I am filled with joy and inspiration. I watch my flock raising their wings as if they are majestic swans and recognize the wondrous beauty of this simple moment. With one captured second of complete bliss, I can creatively share my dream with others. When I do this, it grows and becomes even more than I could have ever imagined.

Dream big my friends, work hard and push through the difficulties to achieve it but, when you do, don’t forget to enjoy it. For in doing so, you will surely inspire others to do the same.

Balancing Act

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I’ve always tried to do my very best at what I set out to do, the problem is, I often struggle finding the correct balance. My tendency is to go a 100 mph, deplete myself and then come to a complete screeching halt. I am able to get quite a bit done in a short period of time but then lose momentum trying to recover from exhaustion. It’s all about balance, I need to live with a 100% all in attitude without trying to give everything and everyone 100% of me a 100% of the time. Learning to choose who and what to invest our time and effort in is an important part of life. It all comes down to balancing priorities if I truly want to be at my best, doing my best work and living a joyful and fruitful life.

This past summer I worked really hard to complete my first children’s book, my last post We Wrote a Book has more about that. While completing the book, there were still farm chores to do: feeding, cleaning, birthing, milking, etc. I also spent quite a bit of energy finding new ways to develop our farm and trying to discover how to be self -sufficient in the future: farm to table dinners, growing a pumpkin patch, and creating new products to sell. In addition to these responsibilities, I have a part-time graphic design job and a multitude of family and friend relationships to care for as well. It is physically and mentally exhausting, honestly there are times I am completely overwhelmed. Sometimes, I feel like one of those circus performers who spins plates on sticks with a tremendous pressure to keep them all from crashing to the floor.

Staying focused is especially challenging when I allow myself to compare my life, priorities or achievements with someone else’s. Social media can inspire but it can also derail us by offering an edited snippet of another’s life or accomplishment. We don’t see the whole picture, all the hard work, struggles, frustrations or loss behind a pretty photo or a well-worded comment, just say’n. I know that I am not alone in this struggle, I hear and see so many others burdened by an abundance of “things to do”. Constant busyness seems to be a rampant social disease that is robbing so many from living a fulfilling life.

For me, farm life helps to bring my important priorities back into focus. It requires me to slow down and be more thoughtful, which allows me time to appreciate what is truly important. Knowing what is of real value and eliminating the extraneous labor that sneaks into my daily life is the key. I do realize that as I continue to seek the right working balance I will be cleaning up some broken plates that fall to the ground. Going forward I think I am ok with that. Who knows, I might even piece together the broken shards to create a mosaic of sorts.

 

 

 

We Wrote A Book

IMG_1220Our book is now available to purchase on Amazon! Farm Dog is trying to take all the credit but it has been a true group effort from all the sweet and silly farm animals that live here on the farm. There was even a little help from me, the Artsy Farmsy Girl and of course the Chef who keeps us all fed!

We are so happy to share a little bit of the fullness we experience from living on our farm, with you and the special children in your life. We hope you will enjoy getting to know and love all The Smith Farmhouse Characters . We will be keeping you posted on what they are all up to and also the new characters that have joined us.

If you click on on the Farmhouse Characters tab at the top menu of his webpage you will find more information and pictures about all of us that live here. We will also be adding new stories in the days to come. We look forward to hearing from you, we love answering questions about what we do and why. We also love to encourage others to know where there food comes from, to find a local farm to visit and to support those that work hard growing and raising quality food for our tables.

We appreciate all your encouragement, your comments and book purchases. It allows us to keep plowing forward, doing what we love: gathering the fullness from our farm and sharing it with others!

If you are interested in purchasing The Smith Farmhouse Characters you can click here

 

High Hopes

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First of all…. How has it been two months since I have written a blog post? I literally gasped when I saw that my last post was June 25th. I remember that day clearly, I was so excited that I had finally figured out how to upload my children’s book and with sincere expectation believed that it would be a couple short weeks before I would get my proof in the mail and approve it for print. Oh, I have always been the optimist but my estimate of two weeks would actually be more like two months.

I didn’t take in to consideration that I would make mistakes, I learned that we are often blind to our own errors. I ended up going through the process four more times before getting it right. It has been a good thing for me in so many ways, I am learning to take things in stride and embrace the realization that taking the time to do things well is important. As much as I wanted to get my book finished by a certain date, I wanted it to be done excellent, even more. So, I learned to swallow my pride and embrace my mistakes as an opportunity to grow and move forward.

I also didn’t factor in just how exciting, emotional and exhausting July and August would be. Farm life has been so full of new births, building projects, blackberry bush removal and visitors. We started farm to table dinners and finished the second phase of our goat barn. Amid all the gains we have had loss too, we lost our first baby goat in August. The little doeling had a cleft pallette. It was heartbreaking. Even though we have her sister Millie, I often think of her tiny twin that slept in my lap and died in my arms. Even in sadness there is so much to be gained. Love and loss often come hand in hand, I am learning not to allow grief to keep me from moving forward and embracing the love and joy in front of me. Somedays that means bringing home free kittens when you have tears streaming down your face and you need to smile so your heart doesn’t break. It’s ok, it really is.

I have high hopes for the future, not because I expect that everything is always going to be rosy. I am optimistic because I know that I can find value in every circumstance. I can climb higher than life’s problems and find new perspective gained from all my past experiences. I have gained so much from pushing through and finishing my book, it was so much harder than I expected and even more rewarding when I finally approved it for print.

When life is hard, or you keep making mistakes, don’t let it break you. Use these opportunities to make you stronger, better equipped and just grow with it.

P.S. My book will be available on Amazon in about 3-5 working days from today…                  I am so excited to share it with you all, let me know what you think of it,if you choose to purchase it!!!

 

Farmhouse Character

In October of this year I will be turning 50, I will also be a grandmother for the first time. These two significant events have been the motivation I needed to push forward and accomplish a goal that I have had for quite a long time. I have long wanted to write and publish a book of my own. Last week, I finally uploaded my first book to be published and I am waiting to receive the final proof in the mail. It is quite a rewarding feeling, to finally bring to fruition, something that was in my heart and mind for years.

When my now grown and married children were young, we made to choice to homeschool. It was not a new concept when we first started but it wasn’t as prevalent as it is now. There were many reasons we had for making the decision to begin the journey, but one of the main reasons we continued was the ability to focus on developing strong and meaningful character in their lives. Knowledge is important but it is character that transforms what is learned into wisdom. I think we have a culture of many individuals that possess a large amount of knowledge but lack wisdom. I suppose I could continue on with an opinion on that topic but I would rather focus on what I can do about it.

The desire to see my children grow in character and become kind, grateful, thoughtful and wise individuals directed me to find and choose literature that would demonstrate these type of qualities in a style they could identify with. We made weekly trips to the public library in search of books that were age appropriate and interest based with the purpose of re-enforcing positive character traits in their daily lives. The afternoons curled up on the couch reading Huckleberry Finn and so many other great stories with my children are some of my most cherished memories.

As I quickly approach the day that I will be holding the next generation of our family in my arms I feel even more compelled to continue fostering a desire for positive character development in our children. Living on our farm has been the fulfillment of my childhood dream, and it has afforded me an opportunity to use my passions to finally write the book I would have loved as a child and one I will enjoy reading to my grandchildren. I have taken my love for the farm lifestyle and a heart to impart wisdom and placed it within the personalities of our lovable and relatable farm animals. As much as I am excited and nervous about sharing my book to the public, I hope it will encourage others to step out and pursue their own dreams.

One thing I have learned is: becoming a success should never be the goal, but imparting your passion to strengthen and inspire the next generation should be.

 

Hay Hooks and Happiness

IMG_3880Last week I was in a rush to get my farm in order so I could travel to Southern California for four days. Spring is an insanely busy season with a myriad of tasks to do but my daughter-n-law was presenting her dissertation to receive a hard earned doctorate at USC. We were adamant that we were going to be there so; there was nothing else to do but get things in the best order we could before we left.

It isn’t easy to leave 28 ducks, 24 chickens, 8 goats, a rabbit, a cat and a farm dog in someone else’s care. No matter how much you plan, organize and prepare it isn’t enough. You can make lists and try to imagine every scenario but eventually you have to set those work gloves down and go. Leaving really isn’t the hardest part for me, it is setting aside the cares to really be present and enjoy the moment. It has been my goal to slow down, be aware and conscience of the lessons to be found in my daily tasks and endeavors.

The day before we left I still had a long list of to do’s, which in the past might have been the cause of an emotional breakdown. Since I didn’t have the luxury of a good cry I chose to put on a smile, pull on my boots and set out to overcome my mountain of chores. It was when I was unloading hay bales from the back of my pick-up truck, the realization of being a legitimate farmer hit me. Hay hooks in hand I lifted each bale out and placed it in a nice stack with the same simple joy my children had with their building blocks when they were young. I was a enveloped in a moment of complete happiness.

We live in a world obsessed with labels, brands and titles that define and give us value.  We can allow others to choose what we are called and how we should feel about ourselves. At least that is what I used to do when I stumbled along in search of a validated identity.  I know now I am a farmer, I always have been in my heart. I am a planter of seeds and a guardian of the herd. It no longer matters to me if anyone agrees with me or the fact there are others who have done it longer and have more experience, for that is not the point. I am a farmer, I am also a wife, mother, friend, artist and so much more. We do not need to define ourselves, we are, who we are. I do what I do because I love it and sharing it with others is fulfilling.

I left for my trip with a new found assurance and a peace which enabled me to relax and enjoy my time away. I think farmers understand that there are too many factors out of one’s control to ever fully prepare for. You should work hard to do what you are able to and then take the time to enjoy what and who you love. Life is an adventure to embrace and experience fully without being afraid of what could happen or the opinions of others.

While we were away we did lose a chicken and a goat got her head stuck in a feeder but  I gained so much more by learning to give each moment the full attention it deserves.

 

Petals and Thorns

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It’s May! Yay! Those April showers certainly have brought the flowers and with them the blackberry  bushes. I have a love/hate relationship with those vines. Yes, they do provide the most wonderful berries in which I will gather and devour along my morning walk in the next few weeks. Those same vines are viciously cruel, leaving me looking as if I was dropped into a pit of wet and angry feral cats. It does not matter how careful you are, those beastly thorns will find the most vulnerable unprotected patch of skin to torture.

When we purchased our property two years ago it was wildly overgrown, there are still areas on our five acres that we have yet to set foot on. It’s been a battle with hedge clippers and a lawn mower but I am gaining ground. I am using all the tools I possess to claim my land and my future. Along with the multitude of scratches, cuts, and painful thorns embedded in my tender flesh are the lovely hidden surprises uncovered as I subdue my little plot of earth. Yesterday my prize was a tiny purple flower standing defiantly lovely in contrast to it’s prickly confinement. This kind of beauty is what compels me forward despite the pain I might endure.

Farmlife, as in all life is, is full of these moments where joy and pain walk hand in hand.  Last month we watched as one egg out of twenty miraculously hatched after 46 days of not so patient watching on my behalf. I had finally given up and decided to discard the last two eggs from the nest when I heard peeping coming from one of the eggs. I rushed to replace the egg to the nest before it’s mama returned and the next morning I was rewarded with the smallest little fluff of yellow I had ever seen. Joy! My hope fulfilled!     I made the decision to leave the duckling and entrust it to the faithful duck who had set there so long for this little lone survivor to hatch. I returned to find it’s tiny form cold and lifeless on the ground, it appeared to unsuccessfully follow it’s mother outside the shelter. Death and loss is always painful, even a tiny duckling not fully one day old can have an impact on one’s heart. Life can be brutal as well as beautiful.

It wasn’t even a full week later that another lone survivor duckling hatched , this time from our incubator. We had started with ten eggs but only four started developing. I had  begun to lose hope when a mistake on our sensor placement caused the temperature to rise higher than it should. Against the odds, this little one made it and the joy of this triumph was made just a little sweeter in contrast to the dismay I felt earlier in the week. Trials, pain, disappointments and such are the black lines in a painting that define and enhance the colors of our life. Hope and patience to wait for beauty in the midst of pain and loss is the intrinsic nature of a farmer. It takes faith to place those costly, diligently thought out seeds in the ground and wait for the fruit of their labor. So many factors are out of our control and yet there is no victory in life without taking risk and doing the hard work. Our labor may be painful and the risk come with a cost but we will not gain anything of true value without it.

I may be tenderly typing this entry with sore, berry bush thrashed hands but; I do have a renewed passion and gratitude for my life and that my friends is worth it.