well that was a good idea

For Christmas, my sister gave my parents tickets to the Guthrie. And then for my birthday I got a ticket to the Guthrie. And then in April she texted us all to tell us she had purchased our tickets to see West Side Story in June. And then June came and we went!

It was such a special night. I drove to my folks and then we drove to Annika's and then we all drove to a great Thai restaurant right across the street from the theater. We shared wantons and main dishes and then mom said that she thought we had time to walk for ice cream before the play. And I shouted excitedly that there is just no doubt these people are my birth family! Bone of their bone, flesh of their flesh, I come from these people. (There never was actually any doubt. Except for when I was little and asked if I was from Mars because Mat told me I was an experiment baby from another planet, but if I told Mom and Dad, they'd have to send me back. Still one of my favorite stories of all time.)

So we walked to Izzy's ice cream where a cone cost an incredible amount of money and I enjoyed every bite. When we were done with our ice cream my mom said, "Well that was a good idea." And I told her that we will write that on her gravestone one day. Because she says that after every treat, and it is always true. And it usually was her idea! I remember so many family vacations when she would announce it was time for ice cream. And it was. Ice cream always helped moral and turn everyone around. And then she'd say, "Well that was a good idea."

Then we went to the play, and it was great. It was an updated 2018 version of West Side Story, while still using all the same music and lines. It was really well done. Theatre is so fun. There was a graphic #metoo scene that makes me pause from giving it my full endorsement, because I think you can leave more to suggestion and still give the scene it's full weight. But this didn't leave much to the imagination and I wish I hadn't seen it. Annika agreed. But the other 97% of the play was great and well done and musical theatre is always so impressive to me!

The very best part was just being with my family. We had a really great night together and it was so fun to be out and about with them. We missed Mat though. Next time we'll have to schedule this sort of thing when he is in town!

I crawled into bed a little after midnight and Rory mumbled something about Ivar getting sick. Elsie was sick late Sunday night, but I had chalked it up to staying up too late and eating too much sugar. But then I woke up at 2 with the flu. And then Hattie woke up at 4 with the flu. Yesterday was very miserable and we have been laying low ever since.

Also, have you ever milked a goat with the full-blown flu? Not recommended, really. We pumped and dumped, if you will. Tossed the milk as soon as we were done, but it had to be done and Rory hasn't tried his hand at it yet. This morning I woke up and had vertigo (I often get it after laying horizontal too long) so I did my vertigo exercises and went out in the rain and milked a goat while spinning with vertigo. Also not really recommended.

It's been a rough 24 hours. But when I look at this picture above, I feel very, very happy. Thanks for a great night Annika. I hope and pray the three of you perfectly healthy now...

dressing the part

So I got bib overalls. I bought them brand new. I did a lot of online searching before I found the pair I wanted. I started out looking for a pair of coveralls to wear over my every day clothes. But that just seemed so hot. I didn't actually want a double layer of clothing, I just wanted to stop ruining my normal clothes.

I have been weeding so much this spring and the knees in all of my jeans were all thinning. And I've been out with the animals much more than other years...it just became time to get something that functioned on the farm.

If you look up "overalls" on amazon, you will see that the models pair them with a pair of high heels. I don't do that. I pair mine with rain boots.

And I will say they are totally and completely practical. I took apart an animal stall with the impact driver and held every screw that I removed in my upper pocket. I love them because I never have to hoist them back up after bending over and they are just flat out the comfiest things ever.

Today I woke up, took my pajamas off, put my overalls on, went and milked the goat, changed into every day clothes, and then Rory needed my help so he could give a lamb a shot. So I put my overalls back on to hold the lamb. After, I spent some time in the garden and then came back in and switched into my normal clothes again. This can happen a few times a day and it sounds like a little much, but it's better than ruining all of my normal clothes.

I had a funny dream while in the midst of making my decision between coveralls and overalls. In the dream I ran into my best friend from high school, Heidi. And I told her, "Guess what I'm going to get?!! Overall shorts! They're so functional! They're not hot, but they stay up and I'm so excited." And in the dream she said, "Bec, I don't think grown women should still be wearing overall shorts." I replied, "But you wore them in your senior pictures!" And she said, "Yes, but at was 1999. And I was 17 years old."

That dream still makes me laugh because I was crestfallen. And though I never was actually considering the overall shorts, in the dream I was so disappointed. Also, I fully recognize that overall shorts may be all the rage right now, totally in style, but I would never know.

All this to say, I got bib overalls. Just like my Grandpa Bredberg who wore them every day that I knew him. Except when he was at church or at Family Bible Camp. And since Grandpa B was cool, I'm pretty sure this means I am cool too.

You can see a very unflattering picture (I believe this is because bib overalls are not intended to flatter!) on Rory's blog, where he wrote one very, very kind blog post about all we've been up to on the farm this spring. 

I'm a milkmaid!

Rory built the milk stand early this spring. And then life picked up and one night he told me, "we can't milk Darcy. We just have too much going on to add that into the mix." And I agreed, but we were bummed. We have been waiting and wanting to milk her for a long time. But I knew this was probably the best and wisest decision.

But then the next day he said, "we just have to!" And I said, "I know!"

And so we are. And I am SO GLAD we are. I have taken up the lead on this project, the milkmaid, if you will. I have watched youtube videos and read blog posts. I have always said we are so, so fortunate to homestead in the age of google. I made our sterilization spray, bought brand new rags (oxymoron, except it's important to have rags that remain goat-only rags!)

Saturday morning was our very first morning. We put the two goat kids into a separate pen each night at 8pm. Then at 8am we head out and milk Darcy who is ready to be milked. And when we're done, she lets down a second round of milk for her goat kids and they are reunited all day long until 8pm. It means we only milk once a day, which is really great.
This was my face on Saturday morning before we began. And while milking. And after milking. I just took to this new pastime with so much joy! I love milking Darcy! It is awkward. And I have to tell my pinky to pitch in nearly every time. There is a definite knack to hand milking. But Rory is super impressed with my progress and I am so happy to have this farm chore added to my morning routine. I was actually pretty fast this morning, my third morning ever! 

Plus, I love Darcy. If she was a human, we'd be great friends. She's so good to me. A little stomping at first, and the first day she got her hoof right in the bucket. But I don't blame her. She will turn her head back in the stand and make eye contact with me like, "what on earth are you up to back there?" But she's patient and I tell her she's such a good goat. And she let's me keep working. 
This was my first day's milk, and we didn't actually drink this stuff because of the whole hoof-in-the-bucket thing. But the past two days have been clean! I bring the milk in the house and filter it with a coffee filter into my mason jar. Then I put that jar right into an ice water bath for an hour to chill as quickly as possible. I read that the faster you chill your milk the less goat-y it will taste.

After church on Sunday we all had a glass together. And guess what? We loved it. All Groves were in agreement. We couldn't actually tell a difference between this milk and cow's milk. And then it had added points of goodness from "fresh from our farm." That always excites us so much.

So now I'm ordering cheese making supplies. And once again, I never saw this coming. But here I am. Milking a goat. Cheers! (And here's a link to my favorite goat website and a darling milking video that I thought about OFTEN the first day)

hay day

Before we moved to the farm, I had a few favorite fields that I always thought were so stunning when they had big round bales of hay scattered throughout them. But I didn't have any idea how hay was made. So here's a quick rundown if you haven't been around a hay field before. 

When there is a 3 or 4 day stretch of dry weather with no rain in the forecast and the hay is tall enough to be baled a farmer will cut his tall green grass (and alfalfa and clover) with a big mowing implement. That grass will begin to dry out. The next day, the farmer might go back over the field with a "tedder" to toss the grass so the hay can thoroughly dry out. If the hay is not completely dry it will either mold in the field (this happens if it gets rained on too many times after it is cut) or will be too moist to bale, or turn into compost in your barn (due to moisture in the hay) and set your barn on fire. Honestly, you cannot imagine how stressful hay making can be! You are threading a needle in time, hoping for sunshine and low humidity.

Once the cut grass mix is dry and ready, the farmer will go over the field for the third time with the rake to move the hay into rows. Finally, the baler is pulled down the rows of dry grass, alfalfa and clover and bales will pop out the other end onto the field or into a wagon. Then those bales are loaded up and put into a barn or as I sometimes see, shrink wrapped in white plastic. Which does not look lovely, in my opinion. But it must be functional.

After the hay is removed, the grass will begin to grow again and in another month, the farmer will find themselves back in the field doing all of this all over again, looking for that lovely window of sunny weather. You can usually get three sometimes four cuttings in a season on one field. This was our first cutting of the season. And our very first ever with our own tractor and baler!
So that's the how-to of baling hay. But then there is a whole other how-to. Like, how to drive a tractor. How to attach a baler. How to thread the baling twine through the baler. And how to do all of this before the rain comes.

At lunch on Thursday Rory looked at me and said, "I have no idea how I am going to get through the next two hours. I have no idea how to do any of this." And I commented that it was probably like jumping in a pool and figuring out how to swim by kicking real hard. He said, "no. it's like someone set you in front of a computer and tells you to start programming." That helped me understand how he felt! This was all so foreign. Just because we bought the tractor didn't mean he knew how to drive the tractor! (A 1969 John Deere drives completely different than a 1981 Kubota.)

Thankfully we had a neighbor and friend from church, Brian, who stopped by to talk him through each step. It really was so helpful to have them there. Rory drove the tractor in circles around the yard, figuring out all the different gears.
Do you notice the clouds that rolled in for this picture? We did too! It began to sprinkle, which put some serious pressure on the afternoon. But it never actually rained or even sprinkled hard. We were so grateful and glad!
And while Dad learned how to drive a tractor, Hattie was learning how to take turns pulling the wagon. Both were working very hard at learning. And Alden brightened the day, as he always does. He just doesn't know where his pants keep going.
Also, we have great neighbors. We had a whole team show up, including the neighbors who cut the hay on Monday for us (we don't have a sickle mower yet) and raked it and were coming by to bale half of the field with their own baler as payment for doing all of that great work for us. Look at that great team!
 And then there was this supportive peanut gallery:
After hitching up to the baler (like backing up a cruise ship to a trailer hitch), Rory was off on his tractor with his baler in tow. When we saw the first bale begin to stick out my neighbor Mary yelled, "it's crowning!" That was the funniest thing I heard all day. Because it was that exciting! We were doing it! Our own hay in our own field was being baled with our own tractor and baler. It was a big deal for us.
Unfortunately when Rory took the first corner at the end of the field, something in the shaft to the baler busted off. The part was very old and possibly cracked already, but fortunately is replaceable. But baling was done for the day.
And because our neighbors are THE BEST, they said they'd just bale the whole field before it rained. They brought over their big equipment and the kids settled in for more farmlife entertainment.
I believe this is the actual definition of field trip.
After driving the tractor and the broken baler back to the barn Rory told Brian, "I consider this a partial victory. I learned to drive the tractor and I actually DID bale hay." Brian said, "That's right. You drove the tractor and baled some hay and then your equipment broke down. And that's farming."

looking lovely

Rory mowed the lawn the other night right after my dad had weed whipped and all of the sudden our farm looked gorgeous. You know how that takes a while each spring? Our farm went through a real gnarly phase after the winter and we had lots of piles to put away like cinder blocks, a wood chipper covered in blue tarp, piles of wood and lots of weeds. But we have been wood chipping our trees, weeding like crazy and building new fences so that all of the sudden it all looked lovely again.

I have so much to write about it seems, but I can't seem to catch up. So I'll just tell you one thing I've been wanting to share for a while now: Rory and I sheared a sheep together. We had a professional come out last Saturday to do all the sheep, but weeks before he was scheduled to come we had 90 degree days and a Ewe who had five inches of wool on her. We had to help! So we ordered hand shears on Amazon, watched a few Youtube videos of Amish shearing sheep and gave it a go.

I am so sorry we don't have pictures. That will be a regret forever. Because the words 'hack job' come to mind. Though that maybe makes it sound worse than it was. We were decent. It took us two nights, working from "the kids are in bed...let's go!" to sundown. We took turns pinning the Ewe down (think WWF) and shearing. It actually was good fun and every snip felt like we were liberating that sweet Ewe from a northface parka on a July summer day. She actually acted grateful and relaxed after she figured out what we were up to.

So add that to the list of unexpected life experiences. I can now say, "I have sheared a sheep."

When we were all done and walking back to the house I said to Rory, "I just want to point out that you married a really good sport." And he replied, "Well, you knew what you were getting into when you married a computer programmer."