The beauty of work

Hard work.  We were made for it.  Though a quick look at our overweight, sedentary culture may say otherwise, I’d beg to differ.  Our bodies function best when they have to do things, not sit around on couches all day.  I’ll try to stay off my video-game soapbox but really, we were created to do hard stuff.  From an early age, it has amazed me how much our kids delight in being challenged to do meaningful work.

Of course some are more bent to work than others.  And for sure at certain stages of our life, its been more difficult to actually come up with projects for all of them.  It would be so much easier in the short term to put a movie on!  Believe me, I’ve been in the “put a movie on” stage, there is always grace for the seasons that a mama just can’t function enough to do much more than that.  However, long term if I want to see diligence and a strong work ethic in my children, there isn’t much better way to grow that than to expect  hard work from them.

And even for me, if I want to keep chinking away (even at a snail’s pace!) at the I’ve-had-six-children baby weight, I have to force myself to work!  Not just dishes and teaching grammar and changing diapers and driving to co-op but things that make me sweat and breathe hard.  It feels good to go to bed a little bit sore.  Even just a brisk walk to the stop sign pushes the limits on my tired legs.

Phineas loves to work.  He spent the morning trying to behave at his sisters’ play and then we came home to find one of our does had delivered triplets in the pasture while we were away.  He “helped” get the babies safely into the barn and then we all watched them in wonder.  Then he got a big stick and whacked weeds in the forest for a couple of hours with his brothers.  Come dinner time, he was desperate for a snack, so I made him a big plate and set him at the table.  He ate every bite quickly and then it was quiet in the dining nook.  This is how we found him when we came to check:

sleeping farmer finn

It’s the essence of Finn in every way.  Plum worn out wearing his farm suit and covered with dirt.

Liberty works hard too.  Besides being insanely cute and completely delightful, she falls asleep on a whim with her snuggly big brother while the fam gets ready to go to church…

kyler and sleeping sis

And having dairy goats is work too, for sure, this girl has done the bulk of the care for these animals and we are continually impressed with her willingness to work hard:

photo 4(2)
photo 5(3)
rylee with delight
baby goats day 2

I’m pretty sure it’s hard to be that cute….don’t you think?!  Their names are Cedar, Daisy and Lily.  Two doelings and a buckling.  The doe Rylee is milking isn’t their mama, she is another goat that we got this week from a friend.  Rylee is determined to get her back to producing milk despite the fact that her babies weaned 2 weeks ago….if anyone can do it, Rylee can!

I killed all the gorgeous cucumber starts I had worked so hard to grow in the kitchen “greenhouse”.  Put them out just a couple days too early and they froze into oblivion in one cold night.  Part of hard work is certainly failing, sometimes a lot!  But every failure is a chance to learn and try again.  Easy to type that.  Not easy to do it!

My one-of-a-kind mother

She is 64 years beautiful, my one and only, not-like-any-other-mother in all the world.  I haven’t ever met anyone quite like her, and I don’t guess I ever will.


When asked by her friend how she’d like to spend her birthday (today), she answered “a picnic in the Arboretum with my daughters and granddaughters”.  So that’s just what we did, a girl day in all of Spring’s blooming, pink glory.  And we even had an extra bonus, my mom’s younger sister was here unexpectedly and got to join in the fun!


She’s the one who can step up, step in when there is a mess of any sort…be it the heart kind or the laundry kind.  She has listened and loved for so many hundreds of hours over the past 35 years of my life and I’m just now beginning to understand the greatness of that gift.  She has offered wisdom and grace and encouragement when my need has been paramount.  She has stepped out in faith, taken risks, been brave and continued to pursue Jesus with all her heart.  She has modeled a faithful, unwavering commitment to the vows of marriage, which in this era is a fading thing of beauty.  That we’ve been blessed to live within 30 minutes drive of her and my dad for these past 15 years is such a treasure.


What a perfect day we had to celebrate!  Warm spring days aren’t any given around these parts and we couldn’t have asked for a better one.  Nor could any of us girls have asked for a better mom.  Each of our lives holds all sorts of bits and pieces of her life and love all wrapped up into the women we are still becoming.

Thank you mom for letting each of us be “us”
and loving us
better with every passing year.


I read these verses this morning and they so describe my parents, we may be more familiar with the cherry tree instead of the cedars of Lebanon but certainly they are planted and rooted in God’s house, still bearing fruit in their “old” age, full of “green” life and declaring still the faithfulness of God…

The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.  They are planted in the house of the Lord; they flourish in the courts of our God.  They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green, to declare that the Lord is upright; he is my rock, there is no unrighteousness in him. (Psalm 92:12-15)

Spring snapshots

Busy days here…keeping up with school work and farm work is filling the days right up.  Here are some glimpses into what we’re up to:


The boys and daddy headed to the local Mountain Man show – by next year I vow to have a proper outfit for the hubby to wear, if he dares!


It was sunny one day, so they donned swimsuits and went down the creek…turns out it wasn’t warm enough for a swim…but it was fun.


worlds’ cutest little garden helper


“the kind of thing brothers like to do”


our friend Tom doing a (fantastic) barn add-on so we’ve got room for babies due end of April


this farm girl has been working overtime helping with animals and work these days – her goat Blanchette is due May 1 with her first set of kids – we can feel them moving inside her belly every day


the 54 meat chicks have graduated outdoors to their chicken tractor – thank goodness, smelly little buggers overstayed their welcome in the garage


how this chicken could NOT make you laugh out loud, I don’t know, her name is Benny and she was the “free bonus chick” with our hatchery order – she or he is a riot – she resides in a pen with 25 brown Rhode Island Red pullets (below)


remember those strawberries I wrote about?  here they are, putting down roots and setting new leaves!


bare root raspberries, just getting their first leaves, seems weird to plant a stick looking thing in the ground and expect it to do something, but it is!


trying out a bite of dandelion next to the cucumber bed


daddy’s super cool mason bee home that we put three tubes of dormant mason bees into with hopes they will come out soon and pollinate all over our yard!


Audrey taking Nana for an ATV ride!


Bearing fruit

It was February and cold.  He was apologetic almost about the picture he was sending me.  I don’t know why I even asked for it because I knew the photo would only be a sliver of “what could be”.  But I’d found his listing on Craigslist and thought I ought to know what I was getting before I said yes to 50 strawberry starts.  The picture he sent was this:

dormant strawberries

It loosely resembled a bunch of dead brown twigs with tiny hints of green mixed in.  It was, as photos go, completely unimpressive.  I can’t possibly express in words though, how I felt when the picture showed up in my inbox.  I’d had a burning desire for these berries, like I absolutely had to plant some.  Seemingly illogical and over the top to me, I’d pondered it over and over but couldn’t will it away. I stared at the picture and could so clearly imagine “what could be”.

At breakfast with a friend that same week, I tried to explain myself to her, tried to make it make sense. As I laid out my heart, my hurts, the parts of life that felt broken and a little bit dead, it suddenly made sense to me and I blurted out through tears:

I just need to put something that looks dead, in the ground and watch it come to life.

I do.  I need to.  And it can be illogical and weird to want to plant 50 currently-dead-looking strawberries.  But the truth is, dry and brittle and fragile describe some pieces of my (imperfect and always-more-room-to-grow) heart.  They are brown and ugly and in their lack of vibrant life, they aren’t much to look at.  Some pieces have been cut off so that new, healthier things can grow but that doesn’t mean the cutting part isn’t hard.  It’s always hard, the pruning.

But there is watering and patience and attention I’m giving those berries and my baby veggie seedlings and the raspberries that look like 12 inch sticks in the ground at the moment.  When the days full of sun come, they will thrive.  There is some sweetness I feel that somehow we’re on the same journey, me and the berries.  Its been a challenging winter and we’ve been hunkered down, dormant, waiting, reaching for deeper roots that will enable us to go forward.

We both have fruit to bear and though mine is far less tangible that the bright red June-bearing Shuksan Strawberries, the impact has the opportunity to pay dividends that reach farther than the taste buds and into the hearts of my husband and children and others.  The ones who share my home are the most frequent recipients of the fruit of my heart, for better or worse.  When challenges arise that seem too much, I am tempted to forget what I know to be true – if it wasn’t challenging, I wouldn’t be so keenly aware that I can’t do it alone.  My need for grace, for help, for a God who is bigger, stronger and perfectly able to handle the mess is most present when life is hard.

There are a few varieties of berries that are deemed “everbearing” – these beauties don’t just give fruit once but if picked, they fruit again.  That’s the other kinship I feel to my berries, in particular the Caroline everbearing raspberry we planted last weekend.  I want my life to keep bearing fruit, to never be done growing and offering the sweetness of grace and forgiveness and compassion to everyone my life runs into.

Whatever parts of life might look dead, feel dead and seem hopeless….can I just remind you that they aren’t?  Even as one in the thick of hard things, I believe wholeheartedly that God can breathe life where there is none and give hope in the most unlikely ways.  There is nothing, absolutely nothing, he can’t handle.


Spring and hope

We’re still a couple weeks away from the official beginning of the next season.  But there is dirt under my fingernails daily.  I can scrub for five minutes and its still there.  I shook hands with someone last week and was (only a little) embarrassed at how brown they were.  Yes, I have garden gloves.  But I end up taking them off.  I love how the soil feels in my hands.  I don’t want any buffer between it and me.

I love too all the double meanings in gardening, I’m certain that God knew what he was doing when he created the earth and designed seeds and photosynthesis and all that wonderful stuff.  The parallels between all things garden to my life are endless and deeply meaningful.

I also love the timing of it all.  Winter bears down hard.  Days are dark and short.  Even the variety of food available to enjoy is limited and not nearly as bright and beautiful as mid-summers’ bounty.  There is the inevitable winter cough and cold of course too, sometimes ones that hang on for weeks or even a month.  Our supply of vitamins and fresh air greatly hindered by wet, frigid, Vitamin-D deficient days.  Anyone prone at all to depression or mood disorders (honestly, isn’t that just about every one of us some time or another?) feels the darkness on the inside just as much or more than outside.  Come December I was online researching full-spectrum lighting and wondering if it would help perk me up at all.

Then the seed catalogs come.  It’s January.  Not even close to spring time yet.  But they come at just the right time.  Bright, bold colors spread across the cover.  Beautiful speckled beans and dark purple carrots and pictures of rainbow chard that are just that, a real life rainbow.  Makes you want to grow some just so you can look at it!  The hatchery catalogs come at the same time.  Fluffy photos of day old chicks fill it, cover to cover.  We sit wrapped in blankets with coffee and cocoa in hand and pour over them.

The hope of new life hatching out of little oval shells and tiny miniscule seeds growing into plants that will provide us with lettuce and cucumbers and perhaps a melon or tomato if we’re really lucky…it is exactly what we need, when we need it most.  Our bodies are softer (um, well, mine is at least) than they were in the summer or fall, from too many days inside, too much comfort food and too little hard outdoor work.  Just about now, life in general is in great need of a boost, a fresh cold rain shower, some good hard physical work, cool nights and warmer days.

Enter spring.  This year is the first that I feel such a keen awareness of the season and the timing of everything and the pressing, constant “next thing” that must be done.  The ground needs digging up.  The soil is clay and needs major amending.  The seeds need starting.  The onions are refusing to even sprout, do I toss them and seed something else in their place?  The chicken water system in place is dismal, so yesterday I needed to put together a new system that will work for all.  The goats are bred with babies due end of April (do stayed tuned for that, not much cuter than a baby goat I tell you!).  The chicks are here warming under the brooder in the bathroom waiting for days warm enough to begin their journey outside.  The neighbor has a cow for sale, his name is Redneck and we buy him.  He will graze on her pasture until we have him butchered in August.  The meat chicks come next Friday, all 50 of them, to live their short but happy life here in our yard until they too will serve their purpose of feeding our growing family.

The kids are down at the creek right now, swimsuits and all, thinking this 55 degree day is practically summer…so I’m off to catch a peek at their fun with baby Liberty in hand!

A birthday…in numbers

36 years old today, my dear friend who lives north of us

18 hours notice that we’d be coming for an unplanned birthday visit today

Time it took her to say yes to me inviting myself over? 5 seconds

12 extra outfits packed in the van for our outing

2 full bags of food

1 hour earlier leaving than planned thanks to very excited children

84.85 miles north in the bright and non-rainy early morning

30 seconds to get out of van and disappear with friends into the bushes

Times Finn got caught wielding sticks or tools improperly? 3

Times Finn knocked over the elliptical exercise machine? 1

Times Finn climbed onto the roof and invited 2 year old Henry to join him? 1

Kids shrieking loudly that Finn was on said roof? 7

Times Finn knocked on the glass front door with a large hammer? 1

Precious Legos destroyed by stealth sneaky Finn? too many to count

9 poopy diapers (1 on the trampoline)

1 bathroom

13 children

2 mamas

Zero potty accidents

Unknown number of boys who used the woods instead of the bathroom

Frogs who survived being stepped on by mom? 1

Goldfish crackers on the floor during snack time? about 35

Culprit? 5 year old Ari – he blamed it on “some kind of explosion”

Kids found eating bagels, playing playmobil cars in the (one) bathroom? 3

Chickens who sat at the door wanting to come inside? 4

8 kids maximum on the trampoline at a time

3 kids minimum on the trampoline at a time

25 minutes of baby Liberty nap time ALL day

Times the sleeping baby on the chair got sat on (and stayed asleep)?  3!

13 pieces of muddy clothing ready to go straight into the washer at home

0 conversations all the drive home

5 kids asleep in the dark

1 white-knuckled mama driving carefully in torrential downpour for 84.85 miles

Years we’ve been friends? 25

1 grateful heart for someone like her to share the journey with




The fantastic Finn

He turned three this week.  If I thought I had been exposed already to “all things boy” with two other boys already, I was wrong.  Phineas continues to keep me on my toes and I continue to marvel at the person he is…

Dear Finn,

Nearly every single day you do something that astounds, surprises, shocks or terrifies us.  Just when we think we’ve figured out how you manage to get out of your room in the middle of the night to take a Costco-sized bag of hoagie rolls into your bed with you, we are found wrong, again.  You’ve mastered the “child proof lock” over and over.  It apparently is no match for your ingenious young self.  You have a tree in the front yard that is sort of your own…you climb to the top with ease, have done so since you were 2 1/2 years old and peek out the top calling my name.

You potty trained yourself for three months last summer but then decided that was overrated and haven’t done so again since.  When I hold up a green crayon and ask you what color it is, you reply “John Deere”.  And I don’t correct you.  Truth is, I’ll be sad the day you are grown up enough to call it green.  You know the rest of your colors just fine.  Your vocabulary and ability to communicate is beyond any of your siblings at this age.  When you open your mouth in the company of someone who doesn’t know you, they are quite always surprised to hear you chatter on in long sentences….you’ve done so for at least 6 months already.

You live, breath, love all things John Deere.  You can’t stand wearing jeans but love wearing either pajama pants or your Carhartt “farm suit” as you call it.  This morning while I was doing dishes I looked out my window to see you outside, in 38 degree February weather, walking around the yard with your new “chainsaw” trying to fell every tree you came across.  After a few unsuccessful attempts, you were content to sit on the playset and hold your saw and grin at me:


I came downstairs two weeks ago to find you very diligently doing the dishes…


Obviously they needed doing.  This is you in a nutshell.  You see everything around you.  You find ways to obtain or accomplish just about anything you set your mind to.  You are tenacious and determined and possess such strength that sometimes I can only shake my head and hope that your dad and I can harness and direct your energy in the right direction.  I can’t wait to see who you will become, who you were created to be.

We are so thankful for all that you bring to our family!



Adding to our flock

We’ve spent the better part of these past two years figuring out how to care for and utilize the space we have.  We didn’t plant a garden the first year but waited instead to see where the summer sun would be hottest.  Then last year we had a baby due right at the peak of harvest season so we (wisely!) decided to forgo the garden and joined a CSA for produce instead.  Our hens are getting older and aren’t laying as predictably as before.  That, coupled with the fact our kids would like to sell eggs (and already have customers waiting!), meant adding to our laying flock.  Which meant chicks.  Which meant having a brooder space for them to be safely out of Finn’s reach, the cat’s claws and warm enough despite getting them very early in the season.

I didn’t want to add work to my already very hard working husband’s plate.  So the kids and I set out to build a large box-type home for the chicks.  I learned many things about power tools in the process, like using big screws in the impact driver on really dry, cheap wood means splitting the wood at least 50% of the time.  I got splinters.  The box isn’t beautiful.  But it serves its purpose and for that I am proud.  The best part is, we got to work on it as a team, which is always fun…


these loud “chicks” were waiting inside the completed brooder to greet daddy when he came home


nothing quite so fun as going to the post office first thing in the morning to pick up a very loud peeping box of cuteness!



Why mud means hope

It may not make any sense to anyone except me.  Which is entirely okay.  But coming outside just now to rally some boys for some heavy lifting work only to find them emerging from the forest wearing wide grins and pants covered in thick mud….it was a glimmer for me.  A glimmer of what might be some day soon.

Spring might come.  We might some time, not too far from now, spend days outside, one after another.  My boys, despite their glaring, enormous differences in personality, might get along with each other within the common cause of the outdoors.  Though the wind whipped brisk and chilled all bits of skin that weren’t covered tight, warmer days will arrive.

It’s been a long winter.  The metaphorical one and the real one.  There have been many, more than normal, cold days where we’ve been sequestered to the indoors.  This is especially hard for one of our kids, the one who lives and breathes all things nature.  So finding my boys wielding my purple pruning sheers and pants that will for sure never be the same again, somehow this fills me with hope.  Getting stuck in two feet of mud and losing a pair of boots in the process was the common ground these two needed today, even if for just one day.  The mud means the ground isn’t frozen which means we’re not frozen.  We will pull through. We might be messy and sure get things wrong along the way.  But we will be all the stronger for it…


Eleven years old

Dear Rylee,

I held your hand tonight in the van, for miles down the dark, rainy highway on our way home from your little brothers’ birthday dinner.  I squeezed you tight and thought you’d let go but you just held tighter.  We’d been talking birthdays and gifts and Kenya.  You talk often of your friend there, your sponsored child who lives across the world from us.  She is never far from your thoughts, your heart.  But especially today.  She’s just about to have a birthday too, the exact same age as you.  I doubt she’s ever heard the term “tween” even if that’s the category her age falls into.  I also doubt she’s ever heard of Playmobil toys.

You have been saving for a long time for a very specific, sizable Playmobil set.  One with cows and a milking room and all sorts of cool farm stuff.  Tonight on our rainy day home you told me you’d been thinking.  That instead of wanting that set that you wanted to put that money toward the trip you plan to take to meet your African sister-friend in about two years.

You also asked if you could request that for your birthday and Christmas you simply get money toward that same goal instead of presents.  You explained why, having thought it all through quite obviously and knowing the cost would be great and it would take some planning, some setting aside of certain things in order to be able to go.  You told me you really didn’t need more presents but that you just wanted so much to be able to go to Kenya.
That’s when I took your hand in the van.  With tears and a heart plum full of love for you, my oldest daughter, I told you you were beautiful…that your heart was beautiful…that I loved who you were and how you cared about the things that matter most.  It was one of those moments where everything is crystal clear and you don’t want to forget a single detail.  You aren’t one to say what you don’t mean and I knew as you spoke that you meant every word.

You are indeed a beauty.  Inside and out.  We are insanely blessed to have you as our first born.  The gift you are to my life, to our family is beyond any measure.  You spent your first weekend as an eleven year old sewing.  First pillowcase dresses for girls in poverty in Africa…then sewing matching dresses with your dear friend, dresses that you wore together to church on Sunday.

matching dresses

I’m well aware we are on the cusp of a new era of parenting as we creep closer to the teen years.  While that will hold its own set of wonder and challenge, for now I’m savoring the girlhood just a bit longer and relishing what we have right now.

So grateful that you are here.

Love always,