Grab your coffee and find out what’s happening on the homestead.

With daylight stretching longer and longer, and the sun beginning to warm the soil, I cannot wait for spring planting. My fingers itch to get in the dirt and I am already craving fresh summer squash and tomatoes still warm on the vines. I keep reminding myself it’s not really safe to plant for another 6 weeks! But it is time to be working on spring preparations, starting seeds, and getting organized.

Captain Jack II, Blue Andalusian

As our homestead grows, we are working on implementing some permaculture models. The

idea with permaculture is that you work with nature, not against her. Rather than spending hours tilling up so for our new pumpkin patch and in the garden, we put our chickens to work. Operation chicken tractor is in full swing! Ok, we don’t have real chicken tractors, just small coops that we got for a great deal at our local Tractor Supply. We plunked one small farmhouse coop in our garden, which we’ve mulched with old straw bedding from the goat shed. And it’s new residents are the offering of my original 6 Tractor Supply silkie mixes. These white fluffies are having a blast digging up bits of kale and carrot that overwintered and digging for grubs. When it’s time to plant, they will have turned the soil, fertilized, and debugged the garden. It’s a win-win!

Betty the Barred Rock

Up on the hill, we placed our other farmhouse coop with the first 5 chickens I hatched from my Brinsea Octagon Eco Incubator. They hatched from a mix of eggs from Meyer Hatchery: a blue andalusian cockerel, a Rhode Island Red, Buff Orpington, Buff Brahma, and and a slightly peckish barred rock hen. They’re still on the young side, but they should have our pumpkin patch free of weeds and bugs in a month or two. Hubby carries out food and water every morning! Of course, we still have our main coop with a mix of hens – silver laced Wyandottes, EE’s, RIRs, astralorps, and a beautiful splash Ameraucauna rooster. Egg production is picking up, and I’m hoping for a broody mama hen or two! We have one more coop of chickens – they’re extra special. I have a tiny coop in my home office with 9 various silkies – beautiful month old babies that I hatched from eggs from Wright Fancy Feet Farm. I love watching them feather out and they are getting so fluffy and beautiful!
We’ve had a problem with hawks, which is a sad reality of free ranging. A good rooster is a great help to the flock, of course, but we also have some surprising new guard dogs. A couple of crows have taken up residence in our trees. I thought they were just a creepy nuisance until I heard them, angrily chasing off a hawk circling our chicken yard. Somebody give those crows a great big hug!

We’re also looking at new greenhouse plastic for our hoophouse, an additional hoop house, an looking for perennials to add to our garden. I can’t wait to plant sunchokes, heirloom beans, and all kinds of squash. We’re hoping to add a Nigerian Dwarf doe to our herd and look into breeding our sweet Maisy as soon as she is old enough. Maisy and Jasper are enjoying the sun and love frisking and frolicking! We are searching for a good goat fence to give them room to forage and to pasture our chickens, and I can’t wait to sell our extra produce this summer. We love our fresh, chemical free veggies!

Since I couldn’t wait any longer to get my fingers in the dirt, I had to bring

Elvis, the silkie roo

some dirt into my kitchen. I planted some 21 day radishes, a pot full of lettuce, started some sweet potatoes for slips, and sprouted a handful of soup beans. It amazes me every time that a tiny seed can become a plant that provides food for my family. Only God’s creative nature could have come up with that plan! Every time a seed sprouts, I see God’s hand at work. If God can bring about delicious fruit from a meager seed, how much more can He do in our lives when we just open up to Him. I can’t wait to see what He and our garden will be up to this spring!

What are you doing new (or old) in your garden this year?

imageLife gets a little too heavy sometimes, when the bills roll in faster than the paychecks do, and the babies aren’t sleeping at night because of stuffed up little noses, and I can’t control the hurt that’s haunting my heart over the pain my loved ones bravely face, and then the laundry mounds up high and it’s just the last straw in an overwhelming pile of straws after staying up late drawing puppies for a 2nd grade diorama, and I stop and wonder, where is God in all of this? Where is He when I can’t keep up with the life that I created and the circumstances that I didn’t? Oh, in my head, I definitely, pridefully, know the answer.  He’s right here. He never left. And He never will. But sometimes it takes my soul a little longer to catch on to when my head once learned all the right answers in Sunday School, so I squirm in my spot and whine about life and finally, finally, seek out ways that help me feel closer to Him.

And I start to remember that all of us here in the northern hemisphere are pretty Vitamin D deficient, which leads to fatigue, and fatigue to overeating, and overeating to a bit of depression when the winter gets deep and dark. And it’s no wonder that all we want to do is sit on our sofas eating cookies and dozing off when the heaviness of life gets a little to weighty to bear and makes me feel far away from God.

So instead of reaching for the choimagecolate I reach for a doorknob and step out into the sunshine so I can look for signs of life in the outdoors, signs of hope, signs of lighter and brighter days. And it is there that I relearn my favorite life lesson that God has revealed Himself through His incredible undeniable creation. And I start to see His hand in a freshly budded leaf, and hear His voice in the delicate song of a robin, and He whispers to me softly through the whispering of the woods and my soul starts to catch on that God is with me and I was simply looking in the wrong place.

cropped-IMG_7754.jpgAnd I remember that when God created this earth, He spoke and made it out of nothing. From nothing, not from dirt or mass or matter or even so much as an atom or electron, from nothing His words brought forth life, the life that now tentatively pokes its way up and out of the frozen ground, and flits about snatching worms out of muddy spots, and shows that winter doesn’t last forever. It’s just a season and if God can create everything we have ever known from absolutely nothing, ex nihilo, nothing at all, than surely He can help fresh, new life poke through my frozen heart and refresh the staleness that has been my spirit in the harshness of the winter days.

image

And that is what I love the most about my budding homestead, that every inch of every acre reveals a little bit of God’s unfathomable creativity, His mindfulness of every detail, His penchant for variety, His love of life and newness and spring after the winter and most of all, His love and His nearness for me. And every blistered hand from raking and every aching back from sowing, and every tiny squeal of delight from tiny humans gathering eggs or chasing chickens is an opportunity, a possibility, and the unbelievable ability to work alongside of our Creator to bring forth life where there wasn’t life before; it is the means to tend, and nurture, and experience miracles that are tiny and miracles we’ve never seen before, and a way in which we can learn to love and adore and learn to be loved and adored as we hear His whispers in the woods and feel His nearness in the sun and sense His breath breathe new life into our very souls.

And it doesn’t matter if you’re in the city or the country or in the in between, if you feel like God is far away I can promise you He’s not. I know it in my prideful head from Sunday School but I am daily learning it in my soul that God is close even when I worry that He is not, and we can learn this daily lesson together, one tentative step, one chicken egg, one blooming budding growing stem at a time.

And maybe you don’t have an acre, maybe it’s just a backyard spot, or a sun speckled window with a little room for a bowl or even just a potato where you can plant a seed and call it a homestead of your very own. And as the seed pokes it’s tender stem through the ground of that pot that is your very own homestead you can see and learn and know that the very same God who spoke into life lacey soft petals and stormy weather strong trunks of trees and green and plush blades of grass and singing birds and chicken eggs is the very same God that got down in the dirt of the earth and fashioned you with His very own hand (Genesis 2). And that my friend is hope and joy and love and closeness and may we never forget the holy God who got His hands dirty in the earth- for us.

And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.

Hebrews 11:6, NLT

 

My ‘normal’ state of being is a happy contendedness. How I feel when all is well, life is normal, and I am simply feeling pleasant.  It is where I feel most like myself, with an inner calm and a sense of excitement about what life will bring. It is my happy. It’s usually accompanied by coffee.

Only most people would probably agree, my life is far from normal. My family size is definitely not normal – an almost 20 year marriage and 6 kids (a combination of biological, adopted, and fostered) under the age of 9. My dream  profession, also not normal. My deepest desire and calling is to be a pastor. My lifestyle – not typical – trying to build a miniature farm on a suburban 3 acre lot. My preferred food plan – clean/Paleo with an occasional cupcake – is not for everyone. My love of chickens, and cats, and baby everything. My passion for foster care and special needs. My love of fitness and essential oils. My excessive furniture rearranging. My penchant for dreaming up possiblities. My collection of books, both physical and electronic. And my need for creative expression through music and writing, well, OK, that might be the most normal thing about me. These are all of the things that are a part of who I am, whether they are normal or not. And they are the things that bring me to my happy.image

But sometimes, I simply lose my happy. I’m not talking about clinical depression here. Not grief, not chemical imbalances. Sometimes, I simply cease to be happy. Maybe it’s when I feel stuck and the possiblities for moving forward have been exhausted. Maybe it’s when I’m taking on too much at once, when I allow the mommy guilt to build up and set in. If you have a child, you know all about that mommy/daddy guilt. Maybe it’s the state of my budget (red), or when I feel like I’m not accomplished enough for a person of my age (kind of old), when I’m overtired, or when I think everyone else has it better. There – I said it. Comparison.

Comparison. It kills my joy. It steals my happy. It makes me cease to be me because I’m looking outward, wanting to be someone else. I’m pretty sure that this part is normal because a lovely friend – who happens to share a lot of the things of life that I love -reminded me that research studies have shown that Facebook causes depression. Facebook. A freaking website, where we all – in college dorm style – share our breakfasts, heartbreaks, triumphs, vacation pictures, job changes, children, and dirty laundry. All in the same place. All at the same time. It is a caucaphony of life’s stuff. And then we look to see if each other’s best moments are better than our own. Facebook is fun, but Facebook sometimes steals my happy.

But if facebook steals the happy, did you know that exercise restores it? Somehow, exercise brings out some feel good endorphins, causing us to feel happy. Today, I did Pilates from Daily Burn. And it was tough, not because this intermediate level, 19 minute, core strength workout was so hard, but because I was simultaneously managing 2 toddlers who were climbing, throwing, shouting, hiding, singing, playing, dumping, and crashing all around me while I was trying to get 19 minutes to do something to make myself happy. And in that moment, I didn’t feel very happy. It tested the limits of my inner sanctum, but I did it anyway because I know that even though it was difficult in the moment, over the course of the day that little workout would help me to restore my happy, as well as burn fat, get stronger, and seriously stand up straight like my mother used to say. (Guess what – standing up straight can help you feel more… happy).

Other things that help me restore my happy – sleep! Oh how I need sleep, and I also crave alone time with God (but I am never ever alone), taking pictures of my 31 (yes, 31, you have a problem with 31?) chickens, dreaming about the next step in building my homestead (hoop house, goat house, or just a plain old bird house), rearranging the furniture, playing with my 6 children, and blogging during their nap. At least, I pray-plead daily that they really really take a nap.

So if you’ve lost your happy – (not a depression or grief type of lost your happy), but more of a daily grind got you down kind of lost your happy – consider this. Shut off the phone. Close the computer screen. Grab the kids. Go for a walk. And then move the sofa. It will get you moving forward towards your happy.