Tag Archives: patchwork farm

YSA Campout

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In my last post I shared the end of one era of life…

Today I share the beginning of another.

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Grace has just completed her first year of college and as part of that transition she now attends church down in Pittsburgh with other 18-30 year old young adults. She has loved it and has found a great group of friends in the process.

Last weekend we were able to finally meet some of these friends in the flesh… friends that Grace has spoken of with fondness…when the YSA ward had an activity at our home.

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A few months ago Gracie shared that her and two friends were throwing around the idea of a group campout. After getting the ok from their bishop they began planning. The first order of business was finding a location for their campout. Grace asked if we could host the event and planning began.

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In the week leading up to the activity the family pitched in to prepare Patchwork Farm for the onslaught of visitors…

Mulching was completed…(Happy Mother’s Day to me!)

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The bus was cleaned out in preparation for overnight visitors and moved to a more accessible location in the yard.

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In the process of charging the battery Toby discovered this nursery under the hood:

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The grass was mowed and the volleyball net was erected,

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And before we knew it Friday had arrived!

Gracie’s friends began showing up around 6:00, with Olivia arriving early to set up her family’s two tents that she graciously shared with the group.

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Food for the event arrived soon after that and cutting and dicing for dinner began while Rusty and Tyler got the fire going in preparation for foil dinners.

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By 6:30 the driveway was filling up with vehicles.

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Friends continued to file in as dinner was served and games commenced.

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Following dinner there was a spiritual devotional offered fireside…

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And then the remainder of the night was spent singing around the fire (accompanied by guitar) and playing night games.

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The next morning a “create your own” oatmeal bar was laid out on the picnic table and everyone got a warm and filling breakfast in their bellies before they headed out for their hike.

Per Gracie’s suggestion, they headed to Buttermilk Falls for their hike.

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This little gem is only minutes from our house but is awesome to experience. Everyone had a good time exploring the waterfall and the climbing rocks that makes this park one of our favorite places to visit.

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When I start to feel sad about a chapter of life coming to a close it is nice to be reminded that new chapters await and they can be equally blessed.

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So grateful Gracie has found this group of friends!

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Our Charlie Brown Tree is a Goliath!

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Once we found our “Perfect” tree it was then time to decorate our “Perfect” tree.

We got it up the driveway and to the front door only to discover another four feet needed be trimmed off.

Finally it was ready to be wrestled into place.

In through the front door it was carried.

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We quickly discovered how far reaching those willowy branches were as the tree “undecorated” the living room as it was dragged into place.

We also found the weight of those far reaching branches pulled the tree forward, so once it was secured in the tree stand Toby had to tie off the top of the tree to the wall so it wouldn’t fall over as puppies ran by.

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Then it was time for lights. Toby and Rusty took on the task of covering the tree with white lights. The flimsiness of the branches on our Goliath Charlie Brown tree only allowed for a minimal amount of draping. The finished product made me smile.

Then it was time to decorate!

Fueled by eggnog and Christmas cookies we were ready to begin.

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The kids  dove into the boxes of decorations, eager to find their personal ornaments.

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We have a tradition in our family of exchanging ornaments every year on December 23rd, on the day before we go out to Ohio to spend Christmas with my parents. We started this tradition on Gracie’s first Christmas with the thought that it would be a fun way to document the years, as well as an opportunity to gift her with 18-20 ornaments that she will be able to take with her when she leaves home and has her own Christmas tree.

The ornaments are chosen with thought, each reflecting an attribute, interest, or event that was important to that child in the past year.

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The kids love pulling out their past ornaments each December and reflecting back on who they were and what was important to them when they were younger.

Rusty’s  collection of ornaments:

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Toby’s theme for my ornament each year is one that started with the first one he bought me in 1998. Every year he buys me an angel ornament.

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The willow tree angel ornament is my favorite. It is the one he bought me the year we adopted Tyler.

 

This year’s tree decorating remained consistent with this season’s overall theme of simplifying and focusing on those things of most importance, with quality reigning over quantity.

Our “airy” tree simply couldn’t hold the usual load of ornaments so the kids had to pick and choose what would go up on the tree this year.

Each of them laid out their years’ worth of ornaments, with Grace having the most at 18 and Ozzie having the fewest at 2. Then they all chose their very favorites from the pile to hang on the tree.

Here is everyone’s #1 favorite ornament:

The finished result was comical but charming. It certainly isn’t our traditional tree. It is as wide as it is tall, making walking to the bedrooms feel like stepping through the back of the wardrobe into Narnia, as we climb through the low, sweeping branches.

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But I love it.

I love story behind the tree.

I love the experience we shared in getting the tree.

I love the humble nature and imperfectness of our tree, so reflective of this Christmas season and the journey God has taken us on.

I love that it is our tree, grown on our land…a living piece of Patchwork Farm.

I love the laughter this comical tree and experience has brought us as we live out a “I LOVE LUCY” episode.

I love that it didn’t go smoothly and perfectly, for I have found it is rarely the perfect moments in life that stick with you and leave an impression. Nobody remembers the perfect Christmas tree, the perfect birthday, or any life moment that goes off without a hitch. No, it is the messy, plan B, imperfect moments that glue families together and are reminisced on and laughed about  years down the road.

No, it isn’t the “Perfect” tree,

but it is perfect for us.

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What’s Up, Buttercup?

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In addition to Olive, our new 10 week old Great Dane puppy, we have a few more new additions at Patchwork Farm.

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Buttercup, one of our farmyard chickens, is a broody little Momma. She loves babies and loves being a Mommy, so she has this habit of hiding her eggs from us. Instead of laying in the same area as the other chickens she finds hidden corners to build a nest, and lays a clutch of eggs, with the intention of hatching them.

So what do I mean by “broody?”

Broody Hens:

A broody hen of any breed can be used to hatch eggs and raise chicks from other hens of any breeds.

  • A broody will sit on any eggs, whether or not they are fertile and regardless of who laid them. To gather a suitable clutch of eggs, she will not only lay her own eggs but may roll other hens’ eggs into her nest.
  • While a hen is brooding, you can remove daily any extra eggs she gathers into her clutch. Drawing pencil “equator” lines around the eggs you want her to brood will help with identification.
  • A setting hen will usually leave the nest at least once a day to eat, drink, and defecate. The eggs are not in danger of cooling off too much during a normal foray into the coop or run.
  • Typically, chicken eggs hatch about 21 days from the beginning of incubation or nesting by a broody hen. A few days early or late is not unusual, and some breeds lean toward earlier or later hatches.
  • If a broody hen has pushed an egg out of the nest, she probably knows something is not right with that egg or embryo.

 

For those that are unfamiliar with the workings of chicken laying…I know I was before we got chickens 7 years ago…here is the scoop:

A young, healthy chicken lays an average of an egg per day. Which means you could in theory get a dozen eggs per day if you have 12 chickens. That is not always the case. Other factors like amount of daylight, weather, age of the chicken, and nutrition come into play but it is a good average.

A grown chicken lays an egg per day whether you own a rooster (a male chicken) or not.

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The ladies will lay regardless of whether the egg has been fertilized by a male or not. If you do have a rooster there is no obvious differences in a fertilized egg verses an unfertilized egg when they are collected daily and put in the fridge. There is no difference in the look, texture, or taste and it matters not whether your omelet contains a fertilized egg or an unfertilized one.

Here are some other fun egg facts:

Double eggs or “egg in an egg” are created when an egg with a shell is encased by the next egg in the oviduct and a shell is produced over the outer egg as well.

  • Double yolkers may have a normal amount of egg white with two or more yolks. The egg may be unusually large.

Contrary to what some believe the yolk is not an undeveloped baby chick. It is actually the nutrients that the chick would feed on as it developed in the shell, if the egg was fertilized.

The egg yolk or egg white may have red or brown specks in it. These “blood spots” and “meat spots” are harmless bits of tissue and are allowed in commercial Grade B eggs. If they look unappealing, the spots can be removed with a spoon or knife before cooking.

The shell color is a breed characteristic. Most chicken breeds lay light-to-medium brown eggs. A few breeds lay white, dark brown, green, blue, or cream colored eggs.

And no, brown eggs are not healthier than white eggs.

If you aren’t sure how old an egg is, you can submerge it in water. The freshest eggs will remain at the bottom of the container, while old eggs will float. Floaters should either be discarded or opened far from your nose

It is the addition of heat through incubation or a sitting hen that causes the embryo to begin developing into a baby chick if it is a fertilized egg. This incubation period takes a little over 3 weeks.

Often with free range chicken (like ours) a hen will “disappear” for a period of time and then return with a parade of baby chicks following her, as was the case with Buttercup.

We have had chickens for years but this is the first time we have had a broody hen. We typically add chicks to the farm through mail order. They are overnighted through the postal service and we get a phone call from the postman to come pick up our noisy chicks when our chirping box arrives.

Having a hen sit and hatch new additions has been a fun change for us. It is neat to watch Momma take on the role of teacher and protector of the chicks as opposed to the artificial environment of raising the chicks in the basement under a heat lamp.

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Buttercup is a good little Momma, herding her chicks around the farmyard with Gus, our Guinea fowl, who has taken on the role of protector and adoptive dad to the nine babies. It is so funny to see!

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It is moments like this that make me feel so blessed to raise my own “chicks” on a farm where they can experience the most thrilling of nature’s wonders.

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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.”

Which came first the chicken or the egg?

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We are proud to announce the addition of 8 new arrivals at Patchwork Farm…

we have babies!

And we didn’t even know we were expecting. 🙂

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On Thursday morning we were called out to the animal pen by Molly’s frantic cries that she needed help. She discovered Ellie, our Bashar pup, playing with a new “toy.” It was a baby chick and the baby chick really didn’t want to play with her. Molly came to the rescue, saving the chick from the Ellie’s slimy Bassett jowls and then the search for Momma began. Molly, forever our animal rescuer, began to search through the tall grass to find any other chicks. We soon figured out who Momma was by the way one chicken closely followed Molly (who was carrying the soggy chick in hand) around the field. Rusty joined in the search and with bucket in hand they began to collect peeps.

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We found 8 living peeps.

We didn’t even know there was a nest of eggs tucked away.

We have another Momma currently sitting on eggs but after checking out that nest and discovering those eggs still in tact and Momma still sitting, we knew this was a different nest.

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After 7 years of being chicken owners this is our first batch of babies. We have never had a broody Momma before the addition of a few new chickens and roosters this summer. Suddenly everyone has “baby fever.”

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We collected the babies and set up a nursery in a container that would hold the babies and keep them safe from wandering out the holes in the fencing where the dog eagerly waits for his “friends” to come play. Momma jumped into the nursery with them and had been caring for them ever since.  It is heartwarming to watch the interactions of Momma animals and their young. The Momma tucks all her babies under the warmth and safety of her wings and keeps watch.

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The babies are in the cute, fluffy stage,

and even the peep who was soaked with basset slime has dried out to fluffy cuteness.

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We are now waiting for the arrival of batch #2. That momma is sitting on 12 eggs and leaves the nest only for minutes a day to drink and eat. One egg shows the start of hatching with a pinhole crack beginning.

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What a delightful life we have been blessed with.

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