the third cutting

Monday morning we woke up a little groggy after a huge weekend of parades, candy, volunteering and Jesse James. Rory went to work at half day at the butcher shop where he is working part time to learn more about processing our animals. And I loaded the kids up to purchase baling twine at the Case Dealership and to pick up the fixed PTO shaft at the Foundry. We got home at the same time as Rory and it was time to hit it. I made a quick lunch of brats and smashed potatoes and we were off. Rory went to see if the fixed shaft would fit in the baler. I began putting babies down for naps.

Rory came in a bit later and said he was using degreaser to clean out the shaft...the part was too tight in there. He couldn't get it to go in. He was so discouraged. But I looked at him and said, "We are baling that field today! This is the day we're doing it. And when we go to bed tonight there will be a whole lot of small square bales piled in that barn." He said, "How do you know that? You can't actually know that." And I said, "I know it because for the next 10 hours all we are going to be doing is working on that field together." And that's exactly what we did. Eventually he did get the shaft hammered into place and then he felt a little more confident that the day may turn out well.
First we got the rake hooked up to the tractor. Attaching implements is quite the tedious job. But we got that pin slid through the holes and then Rory was off. This rake comes from the farm my mom grew up on. My Uncle Jake is letting us use it until we find one of our own. I have been wondering which of my uncles and if my grandpa used this rake. We are so grateful for it!
And then we got the baler hooked up. And it worked!!!! This is the first bale that popped out of our baler and the dancing and shouts and fist pumps made for quite the celebration. Little bale, you made our day.
 Every so often the twine wouldn't tie and Rory would hop down and fiddle with this and tighten that and then it would work great for more bales until it didn't work again. It meant that I got to help spread out the hay again for the baler to run over for another attempt of being tied into a tidy bale.

I also would like to say that at about 4:00 I went in the house and my kids were ready for a mother to come and settle a few things. Mostly their stomachs. So I made dinner while our neighbor Gary went to get more gas for us. Neighbors are the best. And I got all kids situated after blueberry pancakes. The big kids were done with the little kids, so the little kids got to come with me to help spread out the hay stacks.
They were pretty good sports about it. I just kept feeding them apples and graham crackers. And they made for fun company. They were quite thrilled to see their dad going by. (We never were actually very close to him...)
 Even the cat came along for a while.
Then it was time for Hattie and Alden to go to bed and that made things a bit easier. When I was walking the babies to the house my neighbor Maureen saw me and I told her I was so dog tired. Every part of my body was exhausted. And she hollered back, "Sweetland, Becca!" And her saying that was like a reset for me! It was so wild. That movie has the scene where the husband and wife are working together to get in their harvest. And that's what we were doing. I decided to muster up more energy. Plus it was the glorious part of the evening when the light turns everything to gold. And Ivar and Elsie still had loads of energy, partly thanks to their Jesse James parade candy...
 Ivar and Elsie played in the back of the truck and later I found a bazillion pictures of Elsie being silly.
And of me, stretching out my back. It hurt so, so bad. I lay like this for half an hour while we let Rory finish the field. And we backed the baler safely into the barn with the truck (implement detaching and reattaching) and parked the tractor so we could head into the field and gather up our bales. Our friend Jeff came at just the right moment to help load them up. Elsie and I drove in the cab and the boys worked in the back. The sky was black with stars when we were done. And another sweet memory was made.
We made serious progress this cutting! We raked AND baled ALL BY OURSELVES this time! Our last frontier will be to cut the field. The first cutting was all about learning how to drive the tractor. The second cutting was learning how to use a small square baler (our neighbor's). The third cutting was using our own rake and our own baler.

WE ARE GETTING THERE!!!

I told Ivar, "Ivar, Your dad is learning all of this so that one day you can call him up and say, 'dad, I need your help.' And he'll come figure it out with you and together you'll know what to do."

school is back in session

This year I am using a curriculum called My Father's World: Adventures in United States History. I chose this curriculum for Ivar's 2nd grade and Elsie's 1st grade because every mom I ever mentioned it to always said, "Oh, the year we did that was one of my favorite years. There's so much good stuff in that year." And I can totally see why! 

Every week we are studying a different slice in US History through extensive books lists they recommend based on each topic. The books have been fantastic and we are learning so much.

This also means that I depend greatly on getting the recommended books from the library from week to week. When I realized this early in August I made a crazy decision. I decided to start our home school on August 13th, three weeks before Labor Day. I didn't mention this to many people because I remember last year a friend told me she was starting early and I felt behind before I began! But this just worked best for us this year (we needed routine!) and it means I have returned our library books two weeks before other mom's using this curriculum would need them.
Our first week was on the Vikings. I was supposed to buy student sheets for each kids to color, but I was too cheap and decided I could probably figure out what they wanted us to do and then make up our own sheets. Part of the curriculum is to make this timeline on the wall and it was supposed to be clip art included in the student sheets, but because I didn't have them I asked Ivar, my awesome artist, to draw a scene instead. What he comes up with each week is so, so awesome. (All based on the pictures from the beautiful books from the library.)
For the record, this timeline may be up on my walls for the rest of my life. And in my room at the nursing home when you come to visit me in my 90's.
It's been a pretty great start this year. I absolutely love the curriculum we are using. That is just such a gift. Soon we will begin studying each state and the national parks that are in that state. And each day we begin with a lesson on all the different names for Jesus. Then the science lesson corresponds to that name for Jesus. This week we are learning all about Light, and talking about what it means that Jesus is the Light of the World. Next week we learn about The Bread of Life and learn about yeast. It's just so rich and fun and creative.
This was our first day of school. That week set the stage for learning all about America, hence these little graham cracker flags with cream cheese, jam and frozen blueberries. I improvised with what we had on hand! Also, our dress code might be a wee bit lax at this school...
Other than that, I am still pretty minimalist when it comes to supplies and materials for home educating. I got a bin for each kid to keep their own books and supplies in because I remember LOVING my tote tray in my elementary classrooms. And the big kids love it too. Hattie keeps 3-ring binders (that match Ivar and Elsie's) toys, crayons, picture books and left over snacks in her bin and Alden really loves to crawl in and out of his bin.

So we're off on the right foot! Two years ago I began this home school journey quiet leery and uncertain about the whole thing, but I'm so grateful we are doing this now. It's really exciting to watch my kids learn and so rewarding to choose this path each day. There definitely are challenging moments, but the rewarding moments far outweigh those other ones. Mostly I like that we are all together.

so precious

It wasn't until the very end of the night that I had the enormous realization of what a gift I was surrounded by. My four kids had just spent the afternoon playing and eating and getting melted m&m's wiped from their faces by ALL FOUR of their grandparents. Could anything be more precious or special? These four kids are so loved and cherished by these four grandparents. What a blessing to have these moments!

The moment we found out we were pregnant back in Nebraska we started making plans to move back to Minnesota so we would be surrounded by family. I am so glad that we did. Because family is the best!

bottle this up

And here we are, on the first day of school. Ah! So let's relive a perfect summer day, shall we?!! Two Wednesdays ago , Marlene and Madison had my side of the family over for an afternoon and evening of boating, swimming, tubing and feasting.
It was so perfect. I was blissed out most of the time. I LOVE being on the water in the summertime and I LOVE playing with my kids on the lilypad. It was a glorious 79 degrees and I said many times, remember this moment! It will get us through March!
Alden was a bit zonked, but guess what? Because he missed his second nap this day he SLEPT THROUGH THE NIGHT. Alden has not been my star sleeper, and because of this day he is now getting one long nap a day and SLEEPING THROUGH THE NIGHT. Last night was the first night I didn't get out of bed one time since he was born.
It was a wonderful day and left everyone sun-and-swimming-tired, the best kind of tired.

my name is becca and I am a farm wife.

Yesterday I was outside with Alden on my hip, wearing my Great Grandma Anders apron (Cathy, it's the one you and Chuckie bought for me at the auction at the Colorado family reunion...I wear it EVERY DAY) and was dumping a bucket of food scraps over the fence for the chickens.

I turned around and saw my neighbor's daughter running by. Her family is here from Boston for a summer vacation. She is in her final year of residency and was still flying at the end of her run, wearing a cute running outfit as she glided past. We waved and then I saw myself.

I was barefoot. With a baby on my hip. In an apron. Feeding chickens.

End Scene One.

Last night I stayed up late and made my third batch of soap. This time I made a peppermint scrub with ground oatmeal. I'm super pumped about it. And today I got up extra early to milk that goat again and do chores real quick before meeting girlfriends for breakfast. After breakfast my friend Kandi and I walked around our town's farmers market and saw tons of friends as well as a stand that is selling only goat milk soap. It was beautifully packaged, priced right and I excitedly talked to the woman selling, "don't you love it? Making soap is so addicting! I just made my third batch last night and I know I'm hooked. And milking the goat! Don't you just love your goat?!!" Her face went blank and confused, "I get my goats milk from a farmer...I'm busy enough with the soap that I can't milk a goat."  I shook my head encouragingly and told her how much I loved her booth. I really did. I was proud of her. And sincerely surprised that she sells goats milk soap and doesn't know the goats.

End Scene Two.

We are meeting friends for a picnic tomorrow at Lake Harriet and I began thinking through what we could bring.  So just hear this and then hear me out before you think I'm bragging. But by trying to use our own food and not spend an additional money I figured that I could bring the following without leaving the house: roast chicken, homemade potato salad, homemade dinner rolls, a jar of our pickles and a cake (a look in the pantry and I decided on tres leche cake). I happily put Great Grandma's apron back on and hit it for a whole afternoon in the kitchen.

And after I roasted the chicken, I pulled it apart for bbq sandwiches for the homemade dinner rolls (just got a bread machine at a garage sale for $3!) and put the carcass on the stove with celery, carrots and onion to make chicken stock. I made pork chops for dinner to eat with our apple sauce and the potato salad I made earlier. Also, I started a loaf of bread in the bread machine for breakfast tomorrow. And I sliced up the soap that I made last night.

What on earth.

I texted my folks, telling them half of what I just told you and said, "What have I become?!!" My dad replied, "a farm wife."

And it's hard to deny it. Especially when I ate my supper in my apron.

End Scene Three

I fear that all sounds boastful and braggadocios. But I am processing so much in my head right now and want to try to get it out. I feel like I have had a complete and utter farm girl transformation this summer- well, actually since the day I turned 37, the day Miracle was born. And I'm so surprised by it because we have been here for six years but it didn't happen until this year.

Here's why it mystifies me. If I wanted to become a lawyer, I would research law schools, fill out applications, pick a school, move to a new city and attend classes for four years. At the end of those four years I would study for the bar exam, and then look for a firm where I could begin my practice. I would be an attorney, just as I had intended from the start.

Now I know I have lived on this farm for six years. And I was obviously around when we built the barn and when we dreamed our dreams. But in my head it was still all Rory's work to be done. I would just enjoy the beautiful surroundings.

Instead I am up to my neck in it! Boom. I'm a lawyer! Just by living on the campus of the law school.

It started with bottle feeding Miracle every three hours, eight times a day, making that trek out to the barn in the middle of the night (in the dark of winter...), smiling at Darcy the goat and beginning to really love our animals. And then when I started milking Darcy I took over all of the morning chores. It just made sense. I'm outside anyway so why not feed and water the cats, chickens, sheep and goats.

And then! And then I started weeding the garden. Whaaaaa?!!! And I sincerely, truly, for real enjoy it. I have thought often how weeding a garden is a lot like sorting the junk drawer. I love organization, and a garden clear of weeds just looks so pleasing to me. Then I began preserving our food and have quarts of tomato sauce, pickles, gallon bags of frozen cut french fries, jars of raspberry freezer jam, and salsa.

I guess I'm just trying to explain that this wasn't my intention. I didn't go to law school intending to be a lawyer. And I didn't move to this farm thinking that one day I'd milk a goat. But here, in my 37th year of life, I have become a full-fledged farmer and I am still surprised by this fact.