Most mornings start early for me on the homestead. I went out in the blowing snow this morning to feed the animas. I slipped on a puddle that froze over and then covered over with a fresh layer of snow during the night. I laughed at myself hoping nobody saw me flailing around for a brief second before I made contact with the ground. Once I made may way into the barn I said good morning to our LGD (livestock guardian dog) and gave her some snuggles. I put some feed into some buckets and made my way out to where the hogs are. Our Boar Butch is a big lad he probably weighs over 600lbs he has a little lean-to that he sleeps all snuggled up buried in straw. Most mornings you can hear him grunting peacefully as he snoozes away. I shout over to him that his breakfast is here but that I am not serving it to him in bed, that he needs to get up. He lifts his head and looks at me with a snort an puts his head down as if to say go away! I pour his feed into his feed bowl and walk away. A little while later as I am finishing up feeding everyone else I notice that he has reluctantly made his way out of his bed of straw to get his breakfast.
I normaly get out of bed around five most mornings. This gives me some time to myslef before our household gets busy. With a family of seven it doesn’t take long to get busy. Our youngest who is six months old is up shortly after I am and full of smiles. I love morning snuggles and smiles with her, she is pretty peaceful. Then our three year old wakes up hopefully after six. Once she is awake good luck to eveyone else to continue sleeping. She is loud and full of energy, she comes down the stairs singing at the top of her voice (other than the fact that it is nice to see her so full of life and confidence to say that it is a pleasant sound would be a stretch). Our teenagers would sleep all day if given the option however around here you are expected to be up and ready for the day by eight. They roll out and make their way to the main floor of the house just in time on the weekends. Saying good moring to them may be a dangerous thing to do.
Everyone is different. Some wake up quietly smiling looking forward to the day, others wake up singing, and yet others don’t like the thought of getting up at all and do so begrudgingly.
How do you wake up? Are you a morning person?
Well it has been a crazy long time since I got behind the keyboard to write just about anything. There are always excuses as to why I don’t write. So today I set one excuse down for a nap and poured myself a coffee and thought I would write a few words to let you all know that we are alive and doing well here on Splitrock Heritage Homestead. It has been a busy season no doubt about it. In the last year alone we have had some major changes happen on our homestead. This spring we added another little girl to our household which now means there are seven of us. She is such a blessing and sweetheart. She has taken a lot of time in various ways (a lot of which are just because she is too cute and you want to see her so much). So here I am writing.
Just to refresh peoples memory of who we are and what we do let me give you a quick recap. We are a family of 7. Our kids range in ages from almost 18 down to 6 months. We are a blended family. We work off the homestead as well as work the homestead. Our homestead is on 160 acres. We are off grid. We do have internet. We raise Silverlace Wyndotte chickens (as our layers) we raised Jersy Giant chickens for our meat birds this year. We also raise Berkshire pigs, and are currently building our herd of cattle with the goal to run mostly highland cattle, we have a handful of goats. Our land varies from sandy to granite with wetlands and ponds throughout. We are working on fenecing (a constant thing) and through proper fences we hope to improve our grazing area as it was overgrown and down on nutrients from the past.
So this is hopefully one of many new posts to come. I am interested in hearing what it is that people who follow this blog or our instagram account #splitrockheritagehomestead would like to hear about? What kind of topics? What questions do you have about off grid living? Blended Families? What? just let us know and we will do our best to accomadate those kinds of posts in the future.
While the sunlight hours in a day has dwindled and life is getting closer to our winter solstice I am reminded of slowing down.
Day light makes things so much easier to see…it is easier to see how much water is in the trough or where to step on the snow covered ground…it mught even help if you have lost your keys outside around the barn…
This morning I woke up to get ready to go to work…had a coffee and some breakfast…did a little reflection…and then went to do chores…
I noticed that my keys were not on the clasp that they normally are on…
This double ended clasp I have been using lately to hold my keys…I normally have them connected to my belt loop…which is exactly where the clasp was this morning when I went to grab my keys…however the keys were not with the clasp…
So I looked with a flashlight as best I could…I looked all around the barn…and now I will wait for daylight when I can see better…
Yesterday I was in the barn mucking out stalls and I built a new stall or pen (whatever you would like to call it) for the doe to kid in as she is expecting in the next month or so…I think that I may have lost them while working in the barn…I have turned the house upside down…I need to have better light in the barn and around the barn…
So here I am slowing down for the day not because I wanted to but because no matter how hard I try I cannot walk near as fast as I can drive…
Back in the spring of 2001 I headed down the trail with everything that I could fit in my saddle bags and my bedroll. I harnessed up the mules Jim and Kate and saddled Easy a black Tennessee Walker. I handed over Easy’s reins to Ken a man who I hardly knew at the time but a man who had enough faith in me and my ability to take me along on this journey. I climbed up on the wagon and waited for Ben to give the go a head. He moved out in front of the train on the path of many who years ago made the journey for a brighter future, a journey of hope.
Along this trail I made many amazing friends. I created memories that have been brought back to mind with the smell of saddle leather or some other little thing. Along this trail we stepped in the footsteps of settlers and people headed to chase the dreams of gold. It wasn’t much different than what we are trying to do here on Splitrock Heritage Homestead. We are trying to do the same thing as peole did years ago. Carving out a future, creating a life, living a dream.
Years ago (not all that many really, 17 years ago) I saddled up and went on an adventure with people who changed my life. With people who impacted and imprinted on me so many different things that it would be hard to explain it all, so today I am not going to try. I am just going to sit back while I enjoy my coffee and remember how blessed I am to have met all of those wonderful people. Thankful that those people took the time to speak into a young mans life. (I will write more about some of those adventures as time allows, but until then let me leave you with this thought.)
The picture I posted is of a journey mug. Not just any mug but a mug that was hand beaded by a wonderful woman who I was blessed to get to know on the trail. Thanks Quackgrass Sally. This mug I used for coffee, water, whiskey. It has sparked lots of conversations over the years. It has seen lots of miles and has stories of its own to tell I am sure. We used to sit in the front of a horse trailer with a bottle of Jack and have a staff meeting with Ben and a few others, filling our mugs and chatting and laughing. We would sit in the morning and drink our coffee listening to the mules and horses stamping their feet and swishing their tails. Breathing in the fresh air that only Wyoming and Montana bring. It was a good time. It helped to prepare me for who I am to this day. And so in the morning between when I get into the house from the barn chores and head to work I will smell the coffee and pour into my journey mug a cup of memories to reflect on.
Thank you to so many who have blessed me so deeply.
It has been interesting learning how disconnected from agriculture we as a society have become.
We were given a cow…maybe a bull…depends who you ask…let me explain.
Our cow is gentle. She is small as per her breed. She is shaggy. She is stout. She (and this is where it gets confusing) has horns.
WHAT! HORNS! yes horns. Our cow has horns. Like many breeds our cow has horns. It amazes me how many people have seen my cow and after I have told them “this is my cow isn’t she beautiful?” they get a confused look in their eyes and say something like “thats a bull it has horns”.
If it has an udder down under it’s a cow.
Some breeds are hornless (aka polled). Other breeds have horns. Regardless of sex. Some animals have been dehorned for safety reasons. Not all bulls are mean. Not all cows are friendly.
So let me take a moment to share with you some tips that may help one stay clear of an embarrassing conversation.
Tip #1 if the owner refers to the gender of their animal as female…trust them they are probably correct
Tip #2 if the animal has horns, one way to tell if it is a cow or a bull is to look underneath (you don’t have to get close) to see if you see testicals or an udder or teats? If there is an udder it is indeed a female. If it has none of those traits it is probably a steer.
Tip #3 if you are not sure say so…or say what you think…it makes for some fun conversation
Thanks to all my friends who provided me with the idea for this post through some funny conversations.
One morning not that long ago around 6am the phone rang. Amanda answered it and after a “let me talk to my husband and I will get back to you” she hangs up. She looks at me and says “that was _________ and they have a friend who is taking care of a draft cross and a large pony. The people who own these horses have both been diagnosed with terminal cancer and are in search of a good home. Our name came up so if you are interested we can have them they just need to get them out of there asap.”
Well we have a mini horse who I have dubbed the 1/8 horse and didn’t really have any interest in having a large pony. I said as much to Amanda but that I would go and take a look. So a friend and I went two days later to look at them (we brought another friend’s trailer being a two hour drive we didn’t want to have to repeat the drive if we were going to take them home anyways). When I stepped out of the truck I double checked the address because there was no large pony to be seen. There was a draft horse (looks to be a pecheron cross of some sort) and a quarter horse.
Well they loaded onto the trailer alright…
They came home that day.
I must say that it is fun having some full sized horses around again.
The heavy is named Belle she has done fox hunting in the past…the bay is called Story…she has done some english riding in the past.
I plan on putting a harness on Belle as well as putting her back under saddle (western of course). I will put Story under saddle as well.
The two of them haven’t been used in a few years so it should be interesting to back them again.
Let me be clear about one thing we didn’t rescue these two loves. We adopted them as their owners were going to be unable to care for them. They were loved. They may have not been used for a few years but they were cared for. They had plenty of hay, a mineral lick, and fresh water, their feet have been trimmed regularly and they are up to date with worming. If more people took care of their animals as these peopls did the world would be a better place. We adopted them because the owners were in a poor way health wise in fact the gentleman passed away about ten days after we picked the horses up. He was glad to know they went to a new home and that they were going to be loved.
I am thankful that we were thought of and that we were able to grant that couple some peace knowing that the horses they cared for for years were going to continue to be cared for. Which in reality is that couple still caring for these horses.
It seems like forever since I have posted anything on here. I am truly sorry for that.
There has been lots going on and it seems like there is not enough hours in the day to get everything accomplished. Some days I need to remind myself that there is always tomorrow to work towards accomplishing the project at hand.
So lets see what are some of the things we have done in the past few months…
- Started some basic barn renovations (moving stalls)
- Picked up a young doeling goat
- Adopted 2 horses
- Put up some fencing
- Planted garlic
- Had a kid (human baby)
- Put in a water line to the barn (still working on this)
- Cussed at the early snow fall
- Took some time off from work
- Been to a few funerals
- Been to a wedding
- Had some family move out west
- Picked up a cow
- Borrowed a tractor
- Helped with some events for the farm association
All in all it has been busy but also feels like we haven’t accomplished much. When I sit down and write a list of some of the things we did it makes more sense as to why I feel like we didn’t get more done.
I find it good to write down a list for a few reasons. One is to remind yourself of what you have done, another reason is to help keep you on track with your goals.
Do you make lists? What do you use them for? I would be interested in your thoughts about lists.
As I sit here enjoying my morning coffee thinking of what it is that we need to complete in the next 11 days it seems a little…overwhelming. Our current place seems to have everything out of place. Amanda is amazing and organized in ways that astound me. I am more of roll with it and less of a list person. Amanda has probably done 90% of the packing while I have been at work. There are boxes piled high in a spare room. The kids dressers are waiting to be rehomed as they won’t require them after the move as they all will have captins beds with storage drawers to hold their clothes. The beds that 2 and 3 used to sleep in are headed to a new home tonight.
This is a time for me to reflect on what is it that I really need? What do I use? Do I need anything that I haven’t used in ages and if I feel I do why? I mean it is easy to justify everything as a need but now is a time to reshape the life we have been living.
I think back to being on a wagontrain traveling across WY and MT with little more than what I could fit in saddle bags and my crawl (bedroll). I had a pair of britches and elk hide leggings with a few loin cloths, I had three shirts, a slicker and jacket with my hat and wild rags to top it off. My bedroll which was a repurposed wall out of a wall tent (there is a story of why it was repurposed just remind me some time) held my will blankets and my journal. In my pockets I had a pocket knife. I had a jaw harp to help pass the time and my journey mug that a dear friend of mine made me along the way that I still use to this day. That mug was used for water, coffee, and wiskey. It tells many stories of you have time to listen. It has journeyed many miles and has many memories attached to it.
Those were simpler times. I didn’t have children to think about nor did I have a wife not that they have complicated life as they have brought purpose, it is that my priorities have changed. The wagon I slept under was owned by the man I worked for. But that wagon reminded me of how easy we have it. Can you imagine actually having to sort out your belongings as to what you can fit onto and into your wagon. Now just because it fits doesn’t mean it isn’t to heavy for your horses to haul it day in and day out. Not only do you need to put your belongings on board but the tools and equipment you will need to open the homestead you will file on and hope to prove up on. The first wagons didn’t have the luxury of stores. So you had to pack belongings, tools, feed and food. You had to weigh out your options and hope you had made the right choice.
Can you imagine all the pressure? Headed out into the unknown with all you own fitting into a wagon that was about 3.5 feet wide and 10 feet long…could you do it? Why leave the security of the settlements they were accustomed to?
We live in a life of luxury currently with food and water readily available. If you need a tool you can run and purchase one. You can have your meals delivered to you. Your house can be heated without working hard for the fuel to heat it. So why move? Why leave the security of the settlements we have become accustomed to?
We are not leaving the security as they would have, we are dropping some of the luxuries that we currently have but there is a real good reason for it. It is called a dream. I believe that this dream we have is also the dream that the early settlers had…a dream of being in charge of their fate, not being slave to the colony, it was in many ways the only ways they could own land. But deep down I think the dream was to have a better future. That is why we are moving to a quarter section of land without conventional power or heat. We are moving in hopes of a better future for our children and for a quality of life that it will provide for us. Will it be easy? No. Will there be sacrifice on everyone’s part? At times yes. Will it be worth it? In the end yes!
And so I will finish my coffee and head out into the garage to start to sort out what it is that I need and why…what I can do without and to simply reflect on how very blessed I am with stuff but that sometimes stuff gets in the way of relationships. On the wagontrain where I had very little I came out of there with relationships that to this day 16 years later I still have. I still keep in contact with many of those people many of them spoke into my life and encouraged me to pursue my dreams. Those are the things I will pack with me. Those memories, character traits and skills that I have built upon because others took the time to speak into my life. And I will be bringing along my journey mug.