Tag Archives: country life

Llama Drama

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For English Composition Rusty has been working on a personal memoir assignment. He chose to share the story of the day we adopted Obama the Llama. We have had fun looking back on that funny adventure. Here is his memoir:

“Life on our farm is always an adventure. We have had our share of crazy experiences with the animals that call Patchwork Farm home, but the one that takes the cake is the day we brought home our llama.

Near our home there is a weekly auction that takes place every Friday night. At this auction you can bid on everything from 20 pounds of strawberries to a used air conditioner, and everything in between. The biggest reason we go to Rogers auction is the animal auction. At Rogers we have bought chickens, rabbits, even the occasional goat. Never did I think we would buy a llama. It all happened when we showed up at the auction and there was a llama in the pen with the goats. He was tall, with long, white fur and a sloping big nose. My dad was instantly in love with the idea of having a llama. The thought of having a llama in the field to protect our herd of goats appealed to him. As we sat in the audience Dad was hoping that the llama would be a good price. At this point in the night I think my dad, in all his excitement, forgot we didn’t have a trailer with us. He raised his hand to bid and the auctioneer pointed to him and yelled “Sold!” We were now the owners of a llama.

Dad went to the front desk to pay his bill and then went into the barn to get our new llama. With a harness and a leash Dad walked the llama to our car. It was at this moment that he remembered that he didn’t drive his truck and trailer to the auction. We had actually come in the family station wagon. Rather than panic dad just said, “We will figure this out.”

We walked to the the car dragging a 300-pound llama by the leash. Dad had Mom hold the leash while he folded down the seats that the kids weren’t using, to make space for a 7-foot llama. It was now time to convince the llama to climb into the back of the station wagon. He found out llamas don’t like station wagons. They also don’t fold easily, but dad was persistent and with a tuck here and a fold here he managed to squish Obama the llama into our car.

Once he was in he was fine. His fluffy white body filled the back of the car and he rested his head on the back of the driver’s headrest. As we drove home cars passed us, slowing down to look closer or take a picture with their cellphone cameras. On our way home Dad decided to make one more stop at our local ice cream store so that everyone (except the llama) could enjoy an ice cream cone on the ride home. Everyone got out of the car to order their ice cream from the front window. As we were walking back to the car carrying our ice cream cones we passed a young boy who had stopped to stare in the window of our car. He was shocked and  shouted for everyone to hear “ Mom, they have a polar bear in their car!”

Obama made it home in one piece and enjoyed a long life at Patchwork Farm. He never again rode in the station wagon. Instead of cruising around town, his days were spent grazing in the fields. In the end it all worked out. The moral of the story is think before you act, especially if you are buying a llama.”

Pictures of our weekend

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Our weekend was a full one as the girls spent theirs at youth conference with friends and leaders from church. The theme for the weekend: “Anchored in Christ.”

Here are some of Gracie’s snapshots from her travels with Molly:

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While the girls were gallivanting around western New York we were playing in Ohio.

On Friday we drove out to the Homestead to visit my parents for the day for some fun “grandsons only” time. It was a lazy, relaxed day as the boys played and went swimming, and I visited with my mom as we crafted and made cards. We were only able to stay a few hours before I had to make the 2 1/2 hour trek back home

but we fit a lot of fun into our short time together…

Arriving at the Homestead.

Arriving at the Homestead.

Mom and Dad's new covered porch.

Mom and Dad’s new covered porch.

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Enjoying rootbeer floats for dessert.

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On Saturday the boys were invited to a friend’s birthday party. Melanie, a little girl in Ozzie’s class at church, was having her 11th birthday party and she invited our boys to come. It was a mini golf party at Frontier Falls, a beautiful mini golf course near us. The boys had a blast! After a round of mini golf they served pizza and cake. It was a very fun party!

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Tyler was a little sweat head in the 90+ degree temperatures.

Tyler was a little sweat head in the 90+ degree temperatures.

The birthday girl

The birthday girl

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While we were at the birthday party Toby stayed home and got some more work done on our school bus renovation. The seats are now all pulled out leaving and empty shell and a blank canvas for the design to begin. We have finally decided on a layout for the bus. After much sketching and redesigning I think we have come up with the best use of space and the most efficient way to sleep 8 in our school bus turned RV.

Sketching blueprints..

Sketching blueprints..

After the seats were pulled up the first job was tarring the floor and covering the tar in new sheets of plywood to reinforce the floor and give Toby a base to connect everything to.

All tarred...

All tarred…

Next step is cutting all the boards for the hardwood floor.

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We are also in the process of planning our route for our trip out west next summer. We plan on hitting some of the big national parks and need to decide what sites to see so we can book our campsites for next summer. If you have any suggestions on “must see” stops feel free to make suggestions. We are looking for input! 🙂

After we returned home from the birthday party we got to work on yard work. After my week away at camp the yard was looking like a jungle and needed some serious attention. It is amazing how things fall apart when you are gone for a week.  It was so nice to be able to tackle the task of cleaning up the yard and porch!

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We were even able to harvest a huge basket of produce from the garden. Thanks to this rainy summer things are growing very well!

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As the day turned to evening the temperatures began to drop and all the critters became more social, coming out to greet us and say “hello.”

Lucy

Lucy

Ellie and Stripey...BFFs!

Ellie and Stripey…BFFs!

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At 6:00 Toby picked up the girls who had returned from youth conference. It was so nice having them home again and hearing all about their adventures.

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Ellie missed Molly while she was away.

Our house has felt a bit like Grand Central Station with everyone coming and going this summer.

We have everyone home for a few days and then Rusty will leave again with the boy scouts for his High Adventure trip. They will be leaving Thursday for a few days of cave exploring, rappelling and white water rafting.

It is sure to be an ADVENTURE!

Farm Livin’ is the Life for Me

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 I feel abundantly blessed to live in the country, own land, have animals and a garden.

I am grateful for the chance Toby and I have to raise kids that get dirty, who have chores, who have learned to cut hay and milk goats, kids that eat tomatoes right off the vine, and chase fireflies on warm summer nights.

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There are lessons learned here on this patch of land.

Lessons like Patience:

Where better to learn patience than on a farm. Before you get what you want, the chores must be done.

Lessons in Reaping and Sowing:

Where better to learn where your food comes from. Firsthand you raise, and sweat, and labor over the plants that will become the food you eat.

Lessons in Hard work:

Where better to learn the lesson of hard work. There are jobs to be done and animals to care for, and whining and complaining won’t help to get the job done. Work strengthens bodies, strengthens souls, and strengthens families.

Lessons in Faith:

Where better to learn those lessons of faith than the time spent on your knees praying for an injured goat or a sick dog.

Lessons in Priorities:

Where better to learn how to prioritize then when your days are filled with so many obligations. You have to learn what is truly  important. Fill you days with learning, and prayer, hard work, and service, making time to play and enjoy the folks you are walking this dirt road with.

And Lessons of Life:

Where better to witness God’s hand and the miracles of life than on a farm. From an early age children witness the miracles of life through the cycle of birth and death. They feel the deep emotions of joy upon a baby animal’s arrival, and mourn the loss of a beloved four-legged friend with its passing.

It is a lifestyle that I never expected to be mine, but feel so blessed to live..

There is no place I’d rather raise my little brood than on Patchwork Farm.

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On Mother’s Day we spent the afternoon outside enjoying our little slice of heaven.

It was a perfect day and an ideal time to get some updated photos of the critters who call our barnyard: HOME.

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We hope they bring a smile to your face and a little bit of joy to your heart.

For they certainly bring joy to ours!

Teddy receiving his afternoon bottle.

Teddy receiving his afternoon bottle.

Gus, our Guinea fowl, making his presence known in the farm yard.

Blizzard, our alpaca.

Blizzard, our alpaca.

We have some new batches of bunnies that have been born over the last month. There have been three litters born, all about two weeks apart in age. When they are fully grown, the kids will take them to auction to sell. In the meantime we have loved having some new, adorable additions!

Our youngest batch. There are seven in the litter.

Our youngest batch. There are seven in the litter.

Tyler calls them

Tyler calls them “baby hippos” when they are this size. 🙂

Our next litter has four babies. They are about two weeks older and three of them are a beautiful black color.

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The oldest litter just has one baby, an albino bunny that is two weeks older than the middle batch.

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Harley D. Hog is another character that roams the farmyard. Up until a few years ago he lived inside the house, sleeping on Tyler’s bed and using a litter box. When we added the puppies he quickly decided that he would rather hang out with the chickens and goats than be pounced on by energetic dogs. He now comes and goes, with most of his time being spent in the barn.

He is full of personality and always good for a laugh.

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He loves a good belly rub!

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Our newest addition is Teddy, our two week old baby goat. He is good for our mental health. You just can’t be down when you have this little man bouncing around. 🙂

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 “Life is good when the barn is where your happiest memories have been made.”

Yoga…Shmoga

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Spring is finally here!

And I am trying desperately to keep the kids focused and on task as we plow through the final month of school. We have five weeks left to get all of our schoolwork done, reach our 900 state mandated hours, and finish the curriculum for each of the kids’ grades. Molly is just about done with school, and Grace and Rusty are on pace but I am playing catch up with the two little boys…

Tyler because of his struggles reading and the need to have many ” high energy movement breaks” through the school day, and Ozzie because of his midyear start in January.

I am confident we will be finished by the last day of school, but it has been tough staying on task when the spring sunshine has been beckoning. 😉

My solution: afternoon gym class outside.

We spend the morning plugging away at the tasks at hand, break for lunch, and then before we get back to lessons we drive down to the park for 30 minutes of exercise.

During the summer months we usually do a daily walk as a family. We have decided to start a month early,

and that 30 minute investment of time has proved to be well worth it.

The little boys burn off some energy, we all feel more awake and alert,  that bit of sunshine feeds our need for spring sunshine, and there is less daydreaming out the window when we return home.

So our mid-day walk has become a permanent part of our school schedule…at least for the month of May.

We have a wonderful little walking track at the end of the road into town. There is a large field that is used for soccer practice during soccer season, a simple little basketball court, and a 1/2 mile gravel loop that circles the field.

The park is beautiful right now with the dandelions looking like sprinkled gold across the field.

While there, everyone has been using their “gym time” in different ways. Some of the kids bring their bikes to ride, some will walk the track with me. There is also basketball shooting, tree climbing, and yoga.

Yes, yoga.

Grace and Rusty both have gym class this semester with the same gym teacher. As a result they often exercise together, making the workout a lot more fun for both of them. This week’s workout lesson was yoga, so they packed their computer and took it to the park to do yoga in the sunshine.

Here is a peek at our “gym time” this week:

(I had fun trying out some new photo apps) 🙂

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Oh, yoga shmoga.

Life is good!

Camp McCleery is for the Dogs!

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This week it is Camp McCleery for four furry friends that we are dog sitting. Four friends asked us to watch their canine family members while they were out of town, and it just so happened that it all fell on the same week. Add our four visitors to the three dogs already living here and we have seven…yes, seven!…fur balls running around. Luckily we are a family of dog lovers and it has been a really fun, though crazy, week. All the dogs have gotten along pretty well and seem to enjoy doggy camp at Patchwork Farm.

But let’s see what they have to say as they write home 🙂

Hello Mudder- Hello Fadder

Here I am at Camp “hootNholler.”

And it’s very entertaining,

They say we’ll have some fun when it stops raining.

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There are kids here-

Oh, such kids here!

Tyler calls me

little deer, here.

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There are many

hands to hold us,

Even when we’d rather hide

from all the fuss. 😉

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We do school with

all the wee ones,

And they hold us

through their lessons.

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Then when school is

finally over,

They take us out to play

in all the clover.

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The food here

tastes like dog mash,

for this “food” here

I wouldn’t waste cash.

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But the staff is

nice and clean,

and the beagle is the only one who’s “mean.”

(Grumpy, that is)  🙂

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There are seven

dogs at  camp now,

big old dogs and

a “chick a wow wow.”

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We are having

fun with our friends,

but at night we go to sleep

in our own dens.

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There is one boy

who is fox-like,

his name is Mojo

and he is Alright!

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He is sweet, and

kind, and gentle,

and for enduring Ellie’s crush-

should get a medal!

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Sweet Jemima

hangs with Buddy.

She loves to play and

 he is cuddly.

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When he wants a

little lovin’

he dances, spins, and does

some friendly shovin’.

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Then there’s Nevis…

he is teeny too.

He’s the piglet,

to our Winnie Pooh.

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He is timid,

and so nervous

He likes hiding out

with dear, calm,  Mr. Russ Cuss!

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Wait a minute-

it stopped raining.

Dogs are running.

 Dogs are playing.

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Maybe things are

not so bad here…

Mudder, Fadder,

 kindly disregard this letter.

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“He’d Fly Through the Air with the Greatest of Ease”

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“Mom, look at me!”

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That was the last thing I heard before I turned toward the sound of his voice and saw it…

Tyler flying through the air,

arms outstretched,

shouting an enthusiastic, “Whee!”

My heart leapt to my throat,

and then I heard *THUNK*

From where I stood it looked like a trip to the emergency room in the making.

Then he popped up with a huge grin and a fist punch of victory,

“Yes!”

It was only then that I realized how my mini superhero achieved his feat of bravery:

Couch cushions…

eight of them behind the chair,

lined up like a squishy runway to catch his falling form.

Once I realized that the risk of a broken bone was minimal

I grabbed my camera to record the show.

Now Presenting

for your viewing pleasure…

*SUPER TYLER*

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I love having boys!

Life is NEVER boring. 🙂

Let Autumn Begin!

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“I am so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” – L.M. Montgomery

October is by far my favorite month of the year but it also is usually the busiest; full of fall parties, service projects, leaf raking, Halloween fun, corn mazes and field trips. As I look at the next thirty days of the calendar, hanging on the fridge, no day remains untouched. I have to stop myself when I find my heart palpitating at the sight of all that ink and remind myself that these are simply the blessings that keep my life full… and that it is good.

Our first fall get together occurred on Saturday night when we invited some friends from our home school co-op over for a bonfire. For Rusty’s 13th birthday he wanted to have his dearest friends and their families over for hot dogs, s’mores, and night games.

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Rusty invited three families over. For dinner we had hot dogs over the fire, baked beans, chips, salads, and of course hot apple cider. The weather was ideal. It was dry and cool and felt like fall.

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While the kids played, the adults had a chance to visit and keep warm by the fire. When the sun dropped below the hills the real fun began. The kids were excited to have friends over after dark so that they could play night games. They decided they would play capture the flag in the dark and glow sticks were handed out to help everyone keep track of each other.

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Grace and Rusty were team captains. Boundaries for the game were discussed and then teams were chosen.

Team 1

Team 1

Team 2

Team 2

For the next hour all we heard were shouts and squeals coming from the corners of the property while the adults enjoyed the tranquility of the fire and the absence of the children. Soon the kids were cold and ready to eat again. Cake was brought out, gifts were opened and everyone enjoyed some fun friend time before everyone headed home.

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Happy birthday Rusty and welcome fall!

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A Boy and his Dog

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“Frogs and snails and puppy dog tails..

that is what little boys are made of.”

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“Dogs have a way of finding the people who need them and filling an emptiness we didn’t even know we had.”

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Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.” – Roger Caras

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“A dog has no use for fancy cars, big homes or designer clothes. A water log stick will do just fine. A dog doesn’t care if you are rich or poor, clever or dull, smart or dumb. Give him your heart and he’ll give you his. How many people can you say that about? How many people can make you feel rare, and pure, and special? How many people can make you feel extraordinary?” – Marley and Me

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“A boy and his dog make a glorious pair; no better friendship is found anywhere.” – Edgar Guest

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“Every once in a while a dog enters your life and changes everything.”

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Live like someone left the gate open.” 🙂

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“The greatest pleasure of a dog is that you may make a fool of yourself with him, and not only will he not scold you, but he will make a fool of himself too.” – Samuel Butler

The road less traveled

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 Jim Fisher has been quoted as saying:

“Not a moment of life is wasted on a farm. Others have been more places but none have out lived me.”

Recently one of the government employees in charge of Ozzie’s care and well-being asked us to justify our life style choice and explain why we felt growing up in the country was the best life choice for Ozzie. The words were spoken with obvious disdain by someone who was more familiar and comfortable with city life than life on a farm. It saddens me when people, who have little understanding of our lifestyle, pass judgment on it.  Whether we are addressing the fact that we home school, have adopted, live without cable, raise animals, don’t buy our children cell phones, or expect our children to participate in the well-being of our family unit through daily chores; there are always some that express the feelings that we are somehow doing our children a disservice by not buying into the world’s definition of what a happy childhood looks like.

We have chosen to take the road less traveled.

It has been expressed by others that our lifestyle choice is a selfish one, and that our children are missing out…on what, I’m not sure…but here are some of the great blessings that have come from this life we have been blessed with…

My children have known the joy of holding a baby animal, just minutes old, as well as the profound experience of holding an animal as it takes its last breath.

My children have come to understand that their food doesn’t just come from a supermarket shelf but from the sweat and labor of hard work.

My children have felt the earth between their toes and dirt beneath their nails as they have planted seeds in the ground.

They have experienced the faith of waiting on a seed to sprout and the labor of caring for and reaping the benefits of a garden.

My children have created life long, belly-laugh memories as they have chased goats off the roof and pigs off the highway.

My children have eaten eggs, hours old, and fudge made from the goat’s milk they collected themselves.

My children have experienced the childhood magic of laying under the stars, building tree houses, splashing in creeks, and catching frogs.

They have learned the lessons of hard work and diligence. They have split wood, stacked logs and raked hay.

My children have chores.

They wash clothes, cook meals, tend animals, and clean up their messes. We don’t give our children chores because we hate them or because we are too lazy to do it ourselves. We give our children chores so that they can experience the satisfaction of a job well done.

My children have been told “No” and have experienced the disappointment of not getting what they want…not because we love to disappoint them but because we are training them to be grateful rather than entitled.

My children have learned, through opportunities to serve, that the greatest joy in life comes from thinking of others before yourself.

My home is not perfect. It is often dirty, noisy, and smells of animals.

My children, also, are often dirty, noisy and smell of animals. 🙂

But, they are happy

and they are kind.

My life is not perfect or pristine. Perhaps in the eyes of the world this life I choose to live is less than ideal,

but I have seen great blessings come from this life I have chosen and this life we have chosen to give our children.

Molly and Pop pop

Molly and Pop pop

On Saturday we went to visit our second favorite farm, The Homestead. We traveled out to Ohio to spend the day with my parents and celebrate a belated Mother’s Day with my mom. It was a picture perfect day. The sun was shining and the temperature was ideal. When we arrived the kids headed to the barn right away to see the animals. Ozzie was eager to say hello to George, the donkey, and the other kids couldn’t wait to hold the two chicks that had just hatched.

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George and Grace

George and Grace

After some fun on the farm we all hopped in the car and drove over to one of our favorite places in Amish Country…

Hershberger’s Farm and Bakery.

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It is a neat Amish store that sells local wares, homemade baked goods, as well as farm animals. When you pull up the first thing you see are goats on the barn roof. (Unlike our goats, they are supposed to be there.) There is a set of stairs for them to climb up on. A pulley system is set up so that you can buy ice cream cones full of feed and send them up onto the roof. Inside the barn there are animals to pet and buy. There are goats, chickens, pigs, sheep, rabbits, ducks and puppies. We enjoy visiting Hershberger’s any time of the year but it is especially fun in the spring with all of the baby animals.

Tyler and a baby lamb.

Tyler and a baby lamb.

Rusty and a baby goat

Rusty and a baby goat

One of the most impressive animals at Hershberger’s Farm is Big Ben, the huge Belgian horse that lives there. He is the biggest horse in Holmes County. He measures 19H 3″ tall and 3,006 lb. He is quite the site to see!

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After having our fill of baby animal snuggles we headed next door to the bakery to enjoy a Holmes County delicacy- fry pies. Fry pies are pockets of delicious goodness: a fried, glazed pastry filled with various pie fillings. My parents treated us all to one. The kids had fun choosing their flavor and then tasting each other’s choices. We sat in the shade visiting and watching two baby horses play in the field across the street while we enjoyed our treat.

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We spent the remainder of our day together enjoying fried chicken for lunch, playing games in the yard, and catching up. It was  a wonderful day.

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Perhaps one of the greatest occupational hazards of being human is our propensity to judge each other’s life choices.

Bottle feed or Breast feed

Public school or Home school

City life or Country life

Big family or Small Family

College education or Learn a trade

Working mom or Stay-at-home mom

Whatever the issue, whatever the choice, there seems to be a passionate defense launched by both sides.

I suppose the lesson in all of this is that…

“Sometimes the people around you won’t understand your journey

but that is OK,

it’s not their journey to understand.”

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“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.”

– Robert Frost

You might be a redneck…

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As a child I had dreams and aspirations. As a Kindergartener I aspired to one day be employed at the golden mountains (McDonald’s). As I grew older my aspirations grew to include being a ballerina, a teacher, or perhaps president of the United States. Never once, however, did I say, “When I grow up I am going to be a redneck woman,” and yet here I find myself living a life that should land me a reality show contract. This week wasn’t the first time I stopped to ponder when exactly I had crossed the line from lady to redneck Momma…

I suppose it was a gradual transformation…

There was that little incident a few years back when the neighbors called to report that their police scanner was squawking about our herd of goats on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. It was an adrenaline pumping moment as I raced down the hill on our go-cart hoping to beat the state troopers to the scene of the crime and get our goats off the highway before they caused a pile-up.

 Then there was that awful day when the pigs escaped and we had to herd them back home from New Galilee along the main drag. I sat in the car honking the horn as the kids, equipped with long sticks, tried to keep them on the center line of the road like some sort of small town holiday parade.

 We have also  been known to transport farm animals like llamas home from auction in the back of our station wagon which is no easy feat, let me tell you! Llamas don’t fold easily.

 This week, however, I feel like I have solidified my standing as “Redneck Momma of the Year” when I found myself straddling an ATV at the bus stop waiting to take Ozzie home. All I needed to qualify for my own Honey Boo Boo reality show was a dead deer strapped to the back of my four-wheeler and a wardrobe change…curlers and a robe perhaps.

This all came about due to the unrelenting snow and cold weather we have had for the last six weeks. After taking the kids to the dentist on Tuesday morning we headed straight home. As we approached the driveway I put the car in four-wheel drive, hit the gas, and began climbing our steep drive. About halfway up we began to spin and came to rest sideways. Thinking that I would “unstick” it later I put it in park and we hiked home. That afternoon, as the time for Ozzie’s bus to arrive approached, I began the trek back to the car. As I climbed in I assumed I would easily be able to coast it back down the driveway only to find that the layer of ice under the snow made it impossible to get any traction. As the bus time drew nearer I began to panic. There was not enough time for the long walk from our house to the bus stop so I ran back to the house, grabbed the ATV and met Ozzie at the bus stop, redneck style, much to the shock of the bus driver and the delight of Mr. Ozzie.

Our ride to the bus stop...

Our ride to the bus stop…

The next day was our home school co-op, which we had to miss due to our vehicle dilemma. After making contact with multiple tow companies who weren’t  willing to even attempt to tow us out we realized we were stuck home for the day until we came up with a plan B. Wednesday morning was bitterly cold with temperatures below 0 and a windchill of -12. Knowing that we were going to have to four-wheel our way to the bus stop again I dressed Ozzie in double layers and brought a blanket to snuggle in. As we waited Ozzie began to get more and more upset as he got colder and colder. As tears began to fall I started shedding my layers and putting them on him. By the time the bus arrived Ozzie was warm and I was sitting on the ATV without a hat, gloves or coat which not only solidified my status as “Redneck Momma” but “Crazy Lady of bus route #1” as well.

Ozzie, all bundled up!

Ozzie, all bundled up!

The kids were devastated to miss co-op, especially after 4 weeks of cancellations due to flu and winter weather but the upside was that we were able to enjoy a day at home with nowhere to go and nobody visiting us. The driveway guaranteed we didn’t have any unexpected visitors. The day was spent doing “fun school”…science experiments, history, and art projects.

Grace had an online science class where they studied the components of a DNA strand by creating an edible DNA strand out of candy. She had a lot of fun with it!

Gracie's online science class.

Gracie’s online science class.

DNA...yum yum.

DNA…yum yum.

For art Rusty learned about artist Louise Nevelson and her style of sculpting called Assemblage. Like her style of art, Rusty had to create a sculptural wall using found objects around the house which he then spray painted a solid color to create unity in his piece. I think it turned out really cool!

Rusty's sculptural wall.

Rusty’s sculptural wall.

It was a good day…a much needed forced “staycation!” After a few more trips to and from the bus stop on my redneck minivan we were finally able to get the car down the driveway.

So, if you had plans to drive by our road at 8:05 in the morning in hopes of catching a glimpse of that crazy Redneck Momma you’ve heard rumors about I am here to tell you she has gone back into hiding…

at least until the next snow storm. 🙂