It's a good day to write….

It’s freezing rain here…..actually we are in a complete weather warning system that includes….. Rain, freezing rain, snow, high winds, downed trees, power outages ( not for us 😁). It caused us to cancel our Christmas gathering with my in-laws and my husband to be called to work. It’s the kind of day you spend indoors by the fire with a hot cup of tea and a good book, gather round for a board game and a great day to eat soup. Sometimes I even like these kinds of days, they can be refreshing and good for the soul. I have also found this one to be a great lesson it what homesteading has provided us…..

We went grocery shopping yesterday afternoon after church, a regular occurrence for our family, this time just for the basics milk, bread, a quick put together lunch. It took FOREVER the line it went around the store, really around it. We took express ( less then 12 items) we started 7th in line….if this was a drive thru everyone would be mad. It was panicked hysteria, well maybe not that extreme but it was getting there. Everyone is worried, what if the power goes? What if we can’t get to the grocery store? What if we run out of gas? Water? and it makes me think what if?

What if we can’t draw water from the well? What if there is no gas, no groceries? What if we can’t keep our food cold? our houses warm? Turn lights on? I am not a prepper, I don’t stock up on anything. Our budget doesn’t allow it, our storage space doesn’t allow it and honestly it’s just not my thing we will figure a way to work it out and get through it….we always do.

It also caused me to reminisce, when I was a kid the power went out here all the time. We made do. No-one went with out, no-one rushed to the grocery store or the gas station or panicked. I remember the power being out for 8 days once, we had livestock then, we had a whole pack of rescue dogs then, everyone did fine at least by my childhood memory and no one was stressed about it, we coped, we used our skills and our available resources, we made do.

But we have lost so much of that, we rely so much on the “systems” on the things of convenience being there the skills are all but distant memories. How would we do here at Splitrock?……Honestly for a while I think just fine.

We have resources- wood, running water streams, cool places to keep food, food available, some we raise, some we can hunt, some although not a lot in this season some we can forage and we have the tools to do it.

We have skills- We can cook both on an open fire and a woodstove, we can hunt, skin, butcher, forage food. We can collect and boil decent drinking water. We can light a fire for warmth with just the resources the woodland provides with out using our wood supply. We can keep food cold, put snow in the fridge, suspend food in cold ponds. We can live here with out running water, with out power…we have done it.

Its why we do it, it’s why we are here. To stay connected to living and not just float through it. To know where our food comes from and what it takes. To feel closer to God and what he gave us. To be good stewards. To teach our children. I hope when they come back to visit in later years, they remember these skills, they hone them, they go out and practice them…. you never know when you might decide it’s just not worth waiting in line at the grocery store for.

Complete disclosure!

I’m trying to drink 1 cup of barely lukewarm coffee, watching the sun shine through the window and the blackflies beg to come in. I can’t wait to get back out there!

Then I look inside at my house ( which is just really the place where we sleep and collect stuff from the day before) and I see my misgivings, my admittingly horrible house keeping skills, my failure to provide a clean organzied home for my husband and my kids. I beat myself up for a bit then I remember…..

I’m a homestead mom ( although this doenst mean they all have messy houses)

Its 830 in the morning all ready I have, been outside for over an hour after I got the kids out the door I’ve ….

Hayed horses

Hayed goats

Watered pigs, horses, goats

Milked a goat, filtered the milk

Let out chicks and ducklings and fed and watered them.

I pet the barn dog

I told the baby all the things we need to plant in the garden as we picked weeds.

I had a conversation with both my boys before they left for school today

I am a mom of 4 completely different kids at different stages with different needs.

I run a business

I assist an aging lady close to my heart

We are involved in our marriage and in our kids, our kids are involved.

We have Church and bible studies, men’s group and youth group, farm associations, boyscouts and girl guides. Work, coffee house, youth hub…..

As I pour the rest of my now cold coffee down the drain add my mug to the ever growing pile of dishes, and start turning todays milk in yogurt I remind myself that I pour my house cleaning energy into the things that matter to me. So we live in a disorganzied messy house. But…

Our souls are nourished by nature

Our bodies are nourished by sunshine and rain dancing, bare feet, good homemade fresh food we are connected to, that we know where it comes from.

By conversations and tree climbs

Sometimes by hard work

And lets be honest our immune systems are nourished to.

When I was girl my mom had a plaque on our all with a poem:

It now adorns the wall at my house as a reminder of what really matters…. One day it will adorn the walls of my children to remind them to.

For now I have a messy happy healthy in all the ways that matter to me home. And an amazing girlfirend that can’t come here and not start tidying up. Thank God for her, for sunshine for nature for the good stuff.

January- A Season of waiting…

Here at Splitrock January is for lack of better words stale, it is the month we hunker down to stay warm, the month we plan and reflect on the year before but mostly it’s the month of waiting.

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January can get cold here, frigid cold in our little valley in the highlands. We have seen -45 this January, school cancelled do to extreme cold. It is the month we keep the fires roaring, drink hot tea and get lost in good books, great conversations and our thoughts…mostly our thoughts.received_477177792792977.jpeg

January allows us time to reflect on the past year. Things we changed like the layout of the barn or the pig pen 3 times and not yet satisfactorily permanent. Things we did well milking our first time around, square-foot gardening and it’s abundant harvest. Things we royally failed at moving the chicken coop so it didn’t flood for the 3rd spring in a row ( which it will), doing the grand barn addition we planned and planned and planned….and put off save for a lean to off one side.Things we added Solar on the house only 10 days of generator power all month! A beautiful well natured cow, 2 horses a baby ( a human one). You win some you lose some you try again.20190202_174338.jpg

January is the month we make plans of the things we hope to do for this new year, Move the chicken coop!, add to the garden, fence the cow some good pasture. Dare I say a pumpkin patch is in the dream works. Raise some chicks and some ducklings, make more syrup. Dream realistically instead of outrageously ( at least out loud).Work out budgets and cash flow and time lines, scratch half the list and try again.20190113_150744~2.jpg

Mostly though I find we are stuck in waiting…. waiting for the goat to kid, waiting for the sow to farrow. Waiting at the window for the sun to peek out, for the temperature to rise. Waiting for there to be some color at the bird feeder, don’t get me wrong I love the chickadees ( we should have called this place chickadee ranch) but a little red or even a little blue  to stir up all the grey would be awfully nice right about now. We wait for the seed order to arrive, for the chicks to start hatching for the pantry to be stacked again. We wait for ours plans to unfold, for the windows to be open and the days to get longer, the hens to lay again. Waiting to start the work in February milking, pruning, wood stacking….A time to sit in the waiting and reflect, to remember we are blessed.

A reminder to slow down

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…

My Journey Mug

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.

Thats a COW!?! Bull S**t!

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.

Adopted horses not rescue horses

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.

Wow has it been that long?

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.

In the morning quiet

The silence is broken as the alarm sounds of in the darkness that is our bedroom.

It is 5:45 one of my days off as I have this week booked off from work. I have slept in till this point as normally I am already at work.

I let Amanda stay in bed this morning as she normally gets up to milk the rest of the week (even on days that I am home she typically gets up to milk and let’s me sleep in a little longer or just so we can hang out while we milk).

Our youngest got up to help me with milking (he enjoys the homestead life).

Once again the silence of the night is broken as the snow crunches beneath our feet as we walk towards the barn with milking bucket in hand.

As I enter the barn I am met with quiet darkness which is broken with a bleat from Millie and some answering bleats from her kids (who are in a separate pen over night).

I lead Millie over to the milking stand. She steps right up as she has become accustomed to our new morning routine. The sound of her hooves upon the wood disturbs the silence even further.

Our youngest is sure someone is at the barn door but it is just Blaze in the next stall over scratching his head on the partition wall.

Spray down Millie’s teats and udder to make sure she is clean the sound of the spray is loud in the stillness.

Pat her dry and place the milk bucket under her and gently milk her into a strip cup to check that everything looks good and she is healthy. The youngest takes a turn stripping out some milk from Millie into the bucket. We switch who is milking as his attention wains. The sound of the fresh milk against the side of the stainless steel bucket has a satisfactory ring to it and is almost relaxing as I get into a rhythm.

Millie relaxes as the swelling in her udder receds. She starts to munch away on her grain chewing loud enough that you know what she is doing even though her head is out of the circle of light produced from the flashlight.

Milk collected the youngest and I reunite Millie with her kids. Headed back to the house the snow crunches under our feet once again.

The house is quiet as everyone else is still sound asleep. The clock ticks on the wall. We get out the filters and the funnel. Put a filter into the funnel/strainer and pour the fresh milk through it sounds almost like coffee dripping in a brew cycle.

Put the milk into the fridge and wash everything up.

The youngest decides to go back to bed. I sit down to drink a cup of coffee.

Finally some quiet in the morning.

Tapped in!

Sugar bush time is upon us! I have tapped our pipeline (which is a first for us). Up until now we have always used buckets. Mind you up until now we have lived in town. Last year we tapped with just a few buckets because that is what we had on hand.

This year we will use those same few buckets and the small pipeline we have set up. The reason we went with a pipeline for sap collection is simply less work and less loss of sap. Buckets can only hold so much and then they overflow (this isn’t a major issue if you have time to collect throughout the day). Where a pipeline pipes the sap to a larger tank so as long as you size it accordingly to the amount of taps, in theory you won’t lose a drop of sap.

Now we didn’t tap lots just a large handful as this year we have been busy doing all sorts of things and there is no point in putting out so much effort to not collect the benefits of it. So by limiting our taps we can add to it next year and the year after and continue to do so until we reach the number of taps that we decide we are able to do and willing to do.

This will be an interesting year as we have a better boiling system (Thanks Dad). I will highlight the evaporator system we have when we start boiling in a separate post.

Happy sugaring everyone!