Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Day in the Life.....

While thankfully not always typical of our days around here, there was a real humdinger recently....

It all started innocuously enough the night before....a ewe in labor.  Normal enough right? Well this ewe, (by the name of Miriam) was apparently not convinced that her pregnancy was drawing to a close in the most typical way possible for a sheep--udder swollen with rich colostrum, contractions to push the lambs out and lots of gooey stuff.  Not that all of these things were not present, because they most definitely were.  But for whatever reason that got stuck in her sheepish head she decided that she must proceed with all possible volume!

I really had other plans for that day, but they had already been rearranged by a little lamb that needed some extra attention.  The main goal for the day was supposed to be planting some 100 raspberry canes that were still languishing in their shipping packaging now three weeks after their arrival...still patiently waiting for the time and weather conditions ideal for their planting.  Late in the afternoon I finally got around to digging the holes intended for the canes.  I made it up to 84 holes before it was past time to feed the lambs and get in the house to supper.

That night after dinner, I was just going over to the tractor to get a scoop of dirt so that I could start planting my raspberry plants ahead of the predicted morning rain the next day.  But when I arrived at the farm and the crazy critter poor dear started in with such a bawling I figured I'd better have a look.  Typically when a ewe goes into hard labor she will find a quiet(er) spot in a corner, or the like, and with much pawing, some lip curling and a few soft grunts....  That would have been far too inconspicuous for Miriam!  Initially I wondered if she had already had a lamb that another ewe had stolen away (which had already happened once this year with another ewe) and Miriam was making all that racket trying to locate it.

But there she stood by the hay feeder--stomping the ground and making enough noise to be heard clear down in Tennessee! If y'all didn't hear her we'll be very surprised ;-)  It may have been fainter and a bit muddled by the time the sound passed through the wind generators at the Ohio border and bounced around a bit in the mountains, but if you think back I'll bet you'd be able to remember a confused bellowing coming from the North several nights ago!

We got her in a pen in the barn since it became obvious that she had not lambed at all yet, and hoped that she would quiet down at least a little..."the neighbors might want to sleep tonight!" we thought.  It was almost as if she was trying to call the lambs out from inside of her--an approach that I've neither researched nor witnessed before, but it didn't really seem to work all that well; so I can't say as I'd recommend it to any prospective mothers.  Mostly it created a lot of tension in the attending staff....some of whom were even wearing hearing protection. :-)  Thankfully that hoop barn doesn't echo!

Well it took a couple of hours of bawling, straining, strenuously crying, pushing, loud callings, some ground pawing, sonorous exclamations, wire chewing (I've never seen that before either!), baritone bellowing, generally an awfully lot of noise before she finally got the first little guy out.  Whew!  After that things quieted down enough to at least being measurable on the decibel scale--it's harder to keep the volume up when your tongue is going a hundred miles an hour licking a lamb off!

With the hardest part over with, the substitute for the stand-in for the acting assistant to the head shepherd (that'd be yours truly--there's a real shortage of true Head Shepherds physically on earth these days....) came back to the house to get the bottles warmed up for a last feeding of the little orphan lambs.  When I got back to the barn about a quarter after eleven, lamb number two had popped out (I know, I know... it's a misnomer :) and was wobbling around on shaky legs.  By the time I'd fed the little ones and fetched Miriam a bucket of water she had another water bag.  I'm still in training to be absolutely accurate in determining whether those bags (which seem to come either before or after the lambs is born and sometimes both) are indicative of another lamb or of afterbirth.  Thus I decided to go back to the house and catch a couple of quick Z's before trudging back over to check her again.

One twenty minute nap later and I was back in the barn.  With no more lambs and no other progress proceeding from the ewe's rear regions I figured that she must be done and moved on to making sure the lambs were nursing well and getting sufficient nourishment.  It turned out that Miriam's bag and teats were so swollen that the lambs were unable to get their little mouths around them!  The solution, of course was to strip some of the milk out until they returned to a more normal size that the lambs could afford themselves the use of.  Because it was the rich colostrum, filled with nutrients, anti-bodies and extra vitamins, I was sure to save every drop I could to have it on hand for later emergencies or occasions when a mother ewe had little or no milk at the time the lambs were born.

So by the time that poor tired under-shepherd made it to bed it was a quarter to one in the morning and I'd still not gotten the raspberries planted!

With all the trouble in the previous few day that had arisen from my tardy arrival at the sheep quarters (from stolen lambs to one that was abandoned by his mother and left out in the rain) I determined that I'd better be over there early the next morning to make sure that the newborns were still doing OK and to encourage all the lambs to go in the barn when the rain, which was predicted for the next morning, arrived.  Plus I'd still not planted the raspberries!

So at five AM the next morning I was trying to drag myself out of my nice comfy bed and get over with milk for the little orphans.  Then the rain was delaying, so I decided to seize the opportunity and get those raspberries planted!

This time I was able to get the tractor without urgent interruption by any sheep and get my dirt to fill the holes where I'd cut out the sod in order to plant the canes.  Now I was in business!  Planting raspberries is not a terribly gigantic task since they are only in the ground an average of four inches deep, but still if you get enough of them it still takes awhile...I had 100 plants to set and it took two and a half loader buckets of dirt to refill the holes with fine compost/dirt around the canes.

There were only a couple of glitches during process that morning.... I ran out of gas in the loader twice (!) because I was using the last little bit of gas I had from cans in two different places; and thought that I shouldn't use much gas when the tractor was basically only sitting at an idle.  Shutting the tractor off while I filled the holes between runs for more dirt would have been logical, but I had discovered that the battery was getting weak and didn't want to have to jump it to restart...(which I ended up having to do anyway after it ran out of gas)  Also it seems to burn just a little oil and the smoke helps with those pesky biting insects! The mosquitoes had been rather plentiful around these parts again this year and early in the morning at later at night when the wind is low or has died down, they can be thick enough to make you want to strain the air before you breathe it!  

So after a bit of finagling with the tractor, and about two hours of planting, the raspberries were finally in the ground! Thank you Lord!

At this point someone (that only got about four hours of sleep the night before) was starting to get a bit drowsy, but the rain that I'd counted on to make going back to bed easier hadn't showed up yet.  So what do you do?  Make hay while the sun shines right?  Well the sun wasn't really shining, just the clouds hadn't started raining yet--so I stuck to doing the chores and a couple of other little tasks rather than haying.

Thankfully the rain soon came and I retired to the house.  The only problem that remained is that there was a whole list of things to do someday when it rained!  But sleep was really calling by that point....and the couch held my rapt attention for a little over an hour and a half.

Once the rain started pounding fiercely, I woke up and made sure that it looked like all the ewes and lambs had made it into the barn to stay dry.  Cold wet lambs and living lambs just don't seem to mix--especially at early ages!

After attending to the feeding once again, it was back in the house to do a bit of baking :-)  It was truly a bit of an emergency--we'd somehow run out of cookies!!!

I did have a bit of a break in the middle of baking to buzz over to church to be at prayer time, but six or seven dozen cookies, 4 loaves of zucchini bread, and two dishes of rhupple betty bars later it was time to start supper....and since I was already in the kitchen watching over all the things in the oven I took over that as well.  A lovely goulash, Mom's wonderful bread, peas and salad with a dish of the dessert rounded out our dinner for the day.

A little later that evening good 'ol Baxter's services were called in to play since the chicks were out wandering the yard.....again.  A good herding dog is invaluable, and Baxter does a pretty good job with the chickens.

After one last baby feeding, it was off to bed as quick as I could--to make it before ten much for going to bed early! The next morning I woke up a few minutes before six to go check the lambs and feed the orphans.

Whew! Makes me glad that I don't have that kind of day too often--it could get to be tiring! ;-)

Like all of life, Farming has its seasons--the ebb and flow of different times of the year,  but with agriculture there is so many different things that you can fit in, overlap and use to fill the cracks it seems like there is the potential for staying busy most of the time.  That is one thing that I love about the lifestyle: there is always something different to do, a different approach to try, something new to learn about.  I enjoy having the animals and working with them--though they can be aggravating at times...and I truly savor the changes of pace through out the year and being in tune with the seasons as they come and go.

As the writer of Ecclesiastes stated "there is a time for everything under heaven."  While in this period of busy Spring work I pray that I will remember to enjoy the bustle now, and yet still thankfully accept the slower rainy days and hot Summer days to come because "[the Lord] gives to his beloved sleep."  In all of life there is a balance--and we must be careful not to lose sight of what is really important and the reason we are here in the first place: to bring glory to the only wise and sovereign God. 

If what we are doing and what we are living do not accomplish this basic intrinsic purpose, then the sum of our total efforts is zero.  While this is a sobering thought, it should inspire us to take a more careful and intentional approach to life.  This is not to say that we as Christians must go around looking, as one pastor put it "like the poster face for the book of lamentations!"  In fact we are commanded to be joyful.  But how, except by faith and daily living in obedience to God, can we really think that we will ever experience all that God has offered to bless us with?  We must not presume upon the grace of God!

However as we strive to follow Christ and love the Lord our God with all our hearts, minds and strength, I truly believe that we can confidently expect God to bless us--it is what He want's to do after all.  He has promised to work all thing together for the good of those who trust Him! And that is a reason to be glad and rejoice!

"Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness!  Come into His presence with singing! (Ps 100)

Monday, May 27, 2013

Standing Stones

It is good to remember once in a while.  It is a worth while exercise to look back, consider, and take note of what has happened.  We should not live in the past nor dwell on it overmuch--but neither must we live or act as though only today and tomorrow are of any value.

So on this Memorial Day, while remembering those who have served our country and honoring their memories; working to preserve that for which they fought and died, and not minimizing their courage, valor and sacrifices; let us also remember to look at the bigger picture--what God has done throughout the course of all time.  

They say that those who do not learn History are doomed to repeat it....  If you look at the history of the people of Israel they were told over and over again to stop, look back and remember what God had done.

Photo Credit: Ewen Rennie via Wikimedia Commons
When all the nation had finished passing over the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, “Take twelve men from the people, from each tribe a man, and command them, saying, ‘Take twelve stones from here out of the midst of the Jordan, from the very place where the priests' feet stood firmly, and bring them over with you and lay them down in the place where you lodge tonight.’” Then Joshua called the twelve men from the people of Israel, whom he had appointed, a man from each tribe. And Joshua said to them, “Pass on before the ark of the Lord your God into the midst of the Jordan, and take up each of you a stone upon his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the people of Israel, that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever.” (Joshua 4:1-7)

What has God done in your life over these first five months of 2013?  What are some of the things that you will tell your children that God has done? (I have to save them up 'till I have some, Lord willing! :) What are the "God Things" that you will always remember from the last year?  The last 5, 10, 15, 30, 60 years?  What are these 'standing stones' that you can point the future generations to and say "see what God has done!"

In the coming weeks, months and years be on the lookout for such events--tell others what God has done for you.  Perhaps you will want to write them down so you will be able to recall every detail to pass down to your children.  Maybe there will be a special object or place that will cause you to remember that you can show to others.  

And so as fly your flags today and proudly remember and honor those who have served our country, or even if you do not; take time to honor God as a duty and privilege of even more importance.  Let the flag of your heart be Joy and let your flags fly high!

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
  Serve the Lord with gladness!
   Come into his presence with singing! (Ps 100)


Thursday, May 23, 2013

You Might Live in Michigan If...

The weather outside is a bit rainy and cold, so I took a few minutes to compose a list brought to mind by our wild swings the last few days.

You might live in Michigan if...

If you recognize the two official seasons: Winter and Road Construction.

If you have the sub-season MUD between the above seasons!

If your winter coat stays on the hook by the door until the beginning of June...just in case.

If you know what UP really stands for.

If you are used to seeing people wear flip-flops, shorts and a sweat shirt or coat.

If at least half of your church goes to Florida for the winter...and the U.P. for the summer.

If you don't think much of it being in the 40's one day and 70's the next.

If you just left reading (or writing) this post to go start a fire even though its the end of MAY!

If you can remember both 80 degree days and days with 4+ feet of snow in the month of March.

If you plan on spending at least 2 hours at the secretary of state--just to get a title transfer.

If you've seen a species that doesn't exist in your least according to the DNR.

If some years you have flowers for Easter...and other years for Memorial Day.

If you're always pointing to your hand to show people where you live.

If an antique tractor or steam engine show will draw people from over 100 miles away.

If your state is home to one of the biggest empty cities in the USA.

If you know how far you have to drive to get to the closest bridge to Canada.

If you've been to the locks...and know what they are!

If a quarter of the little towns around you have a maple syrup festival.

If the arrival of your state bird signals the beginning of hope.

If you have "resident" Canada geese that you can't keep from making a mess all around your pond.

If you give your distances as a measure of time from "The Bridge."

If you know how to properly pronounce "Mackinac."

If a snowmobile is considered a reasonable means of transportation and they fill up at your gas station.

If you have the some of the highest gas taxes in the country and the worst roads!

That will have to do for now...though I'm still hoping to get an update on the lambing up sometime soon.

Praising God that HE isn't like the weather!


Friday, May 17, 2013

Data Loss Prevention - A Story

Take a crack data loss prevention team:
And add a stack of 35 hard disks with data to be annihilated:
Use these tools:

To remove these screws:

Leaving these parts:
Read Arms

Circuit Boards

High RPM Moters
Miscellaneous stuff
To render innocuous this pile of disks:
And create this statue of really strong magnets:
10,000 uses for these things.

Mission Accomplished.

- Jonathan

P.S. I'm chronically buying new domain names--they're some of the best and cheapest forms of advertising, after all. The latest:

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Newcomers

We have had a few newcomers over the last few days!  There are still many animals left to have their babies, but the little ones that have arrived are quite photogenic :-)

Our first comers were the little piggies as "Spot" farrowed early last week

A few hours old--and Hungry!!

Now a week old they are starting to get out and about.

Did you say 'Boo'? 
 The sheep have been taking things quietly and many mommas that I thought sure would have lambed by now are still just getting bigger!

Still waiting for "big Debbie" to kick it in gear...she had 5 lambs a few years ago!
"Sarah" getting some loving from Mom...she is the favorite--and she knows it! 
"Prissy" was the first to lamb this spring--here she is in the barn with her  little girl last Sunday.

Over a week old now, and running with the flock! 

Next to lamb was "Sarah's" lamb from last year...this is Number 36 who's name we can't remember....

That lamb is pretty cute now, but just an hour earlier....
It was hard work getting born. I had to help momma a little and pull the
 lamb--it is a big one for a first time lamber

First tries at getting up are so hard!


There!  She made it!
 And then this morning I went over and discovered another ewe with twins!

This is No. 29 a two year old who is lambing for the first time.
So far she seems to be a good momma and didn't even need any help!
 Since they were doing so well, No. 36 and her baby got to go out to the pasture today!
"This is MY baby....oh, I guess you can take a picture--but don't try to steal her!"
Isn't she cute?
"And that is the way it is"  on the farm tonight May 14th 2013...and as always keep your RSS reader tuned to this station for the latest updates in News (birth announcements), Sports (muddy pig chasing anyone?) and the Whether (whether or not there have been any more newcomers that is! ;)

"The earth has yielded its increase, and God our God shall bless us. God shall bless us. Let all the ends of the earth fear him!" (Ps 67)


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Hey May--Wait for Me!!

April disappeared in a whirl of frost and now we are 7 (!) days into May does time go by so fast?

In April we were wondering if Spring would ever arrive in Michigan--we have certainly had a cooler and later spring than last year!  No 80 degree days in March for us this year. (which is really alright, because when it cooled back down to more normal temperatures in April last year the trees and flowers had a hard time coping!)

Also last month after a special Thursday Awana night at our church where the kids put on  a talent show and a Friday afternoon Band Festival (Jonathan and Dad play their horns with the Homeschool Band), Jonathan and I made a trip down to southern Tennessee to visit some special friends!
This is our first view of TN, from the top of the rest area trail

For about a week we enjoyed fabulous fellowship, fantastic food and frantic fun!  Staying at their newish farm allowed us to help out with a few projects and enjoy "roughing it" a little bit...though we really felt like we were living like kings!  After all what more could a man ask for--Godly friends (given to us by God!),  great food (especially those cookies--thanks again ladies! ;-), a few firearms (OK, so more than a few), big fires (gotta love burning brush!) and a farm to facilitate it all!  We have a lot of memories that we will cherish for a long time and are already looking for God to send us the opportunity to do it all over again!
We miss this place--but we miss the people more!
Another field in green, green TN!
We arrived back in Michigan with praise and thanks in our hearts to God for His goodness to us and dove, that is tried to dive, back into our daily schedules with a mix of renewed zest and sheer desperation...we had have a lot to do in only a few before some other friends come to visit us the middle of this week!

In the meantime God had an idea that I needed some more rest because I ended up with a flu bug of some sort and didn't do much but sleep for three days....and I was expecting to be able to use that time to get ready for the baby pigs, lambs and chicks that were all due to start arriving the end of last week!  Thankfully the little ones held off and before they came I was back on my feet and able to get some different arraignments made to accommodate their arrivals.  Lord Willing I'll post some pictures of the little cuties soon!

So far we have only had one ewe lamb and while one gilt did farrow yesterday afternoon we are still waiting for the sow and other gilt to decide they can't possibly hold those little pigs in any longer...they almost look like they're going to explode!
This old girl is due any day (minute?!?) now....
There are still several things that I need to do as quickly as possible--like get the sheep out on grass, but as God gives strength I know that everything will happen in good time.  His time and not mine!  How glad I am that He has a plan and all my concern needs to be is cooperating with Him!

The last few days have been warm and sunny-just what the grasses needed to use the rain of April and jump start their growth. The trees have finally gotten a good start towards leafing out and the mid-Spring flowers are starting to make their appearance.  It is not the green and warmth of Tennessee but we are thankful that the snow that was on the ground when we left did not stay and wait for our return!

We are starting to get a bit of green here.
If you drop by for a visit, you'd drive through the golden maples...
And come calling at ol PotterVilla
We have more to share, but finding the time to sit and write while outside projects are calling is difficult, so until the next time, whenever that may be we wish you God's best!

May God be gracious to us and bless us, and make his face to shine upon us, so that your ways may be known on the earth and your saving power among all the nations.  Let the peoples praise you; O God,
let all the peoples praise you! (Ps 67)