All Those Plans

I had high hopes for this summer. We planned to expand the garden with seedlings we’d started ourselves. But, it was not meant to be. I had everything we needed. Seeds. Soil. Trays. Then we got the news. A job transfer to New England would mean we would be moving fifteen hours away. It was not a promotion. It was just a “we need you more here” type of announcement, the kind that makes you wonder what exactly God is up to with this new adventure we didn’t anticipate or plan.

So, after spending two nights wracking our brain to think if there was any way at all to get out of this move, we finally admitted to ourselves this has to be a God thing. We did the only thing we could think of to begin the process. We rented a dumpster. We have gone through every, single room in our home and purged. It was divine. We did not take a spring break for school this year yet so I’ve given ourselves a few days this week to play with friends and purge the days away. It has been a refreshing change of pace. I like projects and I like to beat deadlines so Ryan and I have been hustling to get the house ready for market by the first week of May.

The kids and I will leave next week to visit family so Ryan can work with the painters to get the house painted and then on the market in May. He and I will be meeting up in New England to house hunt and then we have a family vacation planned.

Not going to lie, we are itching for a barn or some outbuilding on our new property for sheep or goats. A barn was supposed to happen next year at our current home, but maybe, just maybe it will work out that we buy a home with a barn this year. We can dream, right?

I am rather devastated about needing to find a new home for our chickens and geese. Jack, our beloved cat, will be making the journey with us to family, as will Star (a.k.a. Nicholas, a.k.a. Oreo), our guinea pig. It’s going to be some trip. If I could figure out a way to bring our geese with us on our adventure, I would, but something tells me the stress of a fifteen hour car ride with seven children, a cat, and a guinea pig would do them in (and also they would have no place to live once we arrived…that wouldn’t help either). I am also upset to be leaving my cherry tree and my magnolia tree (birthday gifts), both of which we’d just planted last year. I’m also quite upset to miss all our peonies, hydrangeas and tulips blooming. I’m so sad I’ll miss seeing Birdie, our favorite pigeon (or maybe it’s a series of pigeons who all look alike), who visits the birdhouse right outside the kitchen window at 7:15 a.m. every morning. Mostly, I’m a mess to leave all the dear friends we’ve made the past few years here. The Midwest has been an interesting adventure for us east coast folks. The wide-open, flat spaces have taken some time to adjust to, but the people here have been some of the absolute best. How our hearts ache to leave.

We know God has an exciting adventure ahead for our family. We’re hoping we can use this as yet another opportunity to show our kids what it looks like to walk by faith, even when something is unexpected or challenging. We want our kids to see us walking by faith- in joy and trusting in God, regardless of our circumstances. This is another opportunity for us to live out what it means to walk boldly and confidently even when we don’t quite understand all the details or reasons, in faith, knowing He is faithful, knowing He is good.

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Surprising Benefits of Geese Ownership

We did not intend to own geese. Ever. We always wanted to have a bit of land- to grow food, to raise chickens. Geese never crossed our minds.

Then something happened. Our free range, backyard chickens started getting killed by hawks. One after the next, the hawk would swoop in and steal our chickens. We tried decoys. We tried limiting the chickens to a run near their coop so they could run back inside their safe space in a jiffy. We tried all sorts of tricks to no avail. Chickens were still disappearing. As a last ditch effort to save our chickens from being stuck in their coop and attached pen year round, we decided to explore the idea of geese ownership.

Here are a few things we learned:

First, geese make excellent guardians, and not just for chickens. Their eyesight is incredible. There voices are loud. In 390 BC it was the geese in a Roman fort that announced an attack by intruders and saved the city. Geese are still used today to guard warehouses and even have a place in the military.

Second, geese are good weeders. So much so that they were often used on farms before modern day herbicides to help keep weeds in check. They have large bills that function a lot like a shovel for weeding or foraging. They forage most of their food, which is good for budgets because not a lot of extra money is needed for feed.

Third, goslings grow quickly, much faster than baby chicks. They’ve got thick, downy fluff that quickly matures so they do not need to be under a heat lamp for long and they can transition to an outdoor space much sooner than baby chicks.img_9063-2Fourth, if you like eggs, geese lay some huge ones. Their eggs can be used just like chicken eggs in recipes. Their eggs are rather large and are equal to three chicken eggs. Geese only lay eggs only during the spring and summer months. Certain breeds are more prolific layers than others. Since their eggs are so large, the eggs can be blown to use for a wide variety of crafts.

Fifth, geese provide meat if so inclined. Folks all over enjoy roast goose on special occasions. As an added bonus, geese provide gorgeous feathers that can be used for pillows or crafts.

white and brown goose sitting on the grass

Photo by Negative Space on Pexels.com

Sixth, geese provide backyard drama. They notice everything. They chat to each other about their observations all day long. If raised from goslings they will follow their owners all over and tell all their joys and woes. Geese can be long and loyal friends. They will lovingly follow their caregivers around even into their adulthood. Geese typically live to 15-20 years.img_0024-1Finally, geese are adorable as goslings and stunning full-grown. They’ll add grace and elegance to any backyard and they have just enough sass to keep everyone smiling and laughing at their antics all day long.

 

 

Growing a Year’s Worth. Yikes.

Even though we still have several inches of snow and ice on the ground here in Chicagoland, we’ve begun multiple running lists of to do’s for the spring and summer. One of those lists is coming up with what we are planting in the garden this year. We’re thinking of starting our plants as seeds this year indoors. This is a first. I’m a bit nervous to have so many seedlings hanging out in our house with so many kiddos running about, so we’ll see if we end up actually doing it or not. The realist in me thinks if we go that route, I’ll be cleaning up an inordinate amount of soil that will end up smeared all over our home. However, perhaps we can come up with a way to somehow keep all the plants separate from the children. Maybe. Regardless, we decided we are expanding the garden and we’ve done a little research into how many of each type of plant we’d need to feed our family for a year. Are you ready for this? Once we crunched the numbers, here is what it would take to feed our family these items for the year:

  • 70 bean plants
  • 140 beet plants
  • 21 broccoli plants
  • 5 brussel sprout plants
  • 21 cabbage plants
  • 140 carrot plants
  • 21 cauliflower plants
  • 21 celery plants
  • 21 chard plants
  • 105 corn plants
  • 21 cucumber plants
  • 14 melon plants
  • 105 onion plants
  • 20 pea plants
  • 35 pepper plants
  • 105 potato plants
  • 14 squash plants
  • 35 sweet potato plants
  • 21 tomato plants

That is nearly 1,000 plants. Wowzers. I don’t think we can fit all those on our dining room table. After getting over our initial shock of the sheer quantities we’d need to grow and preserve, we had to admit we don’t think we will be able to expand our garden quite that much this year, but it gives us an idea of what to aim for one day. We are still planning on expanding and we need to go back through our list and figure out which things we would love to have more of and which we really only would like to enjoy during the growing season. The only one of the plants listed above that we’ve even come close to planting in the appropriate quantities in the past is the tomato plant. Last year we hit an all time max of planting 12 tomato plants. The proper amount I guess is 21, which explains why we ran out of tomato sauce in January. Potatoes and onions will be new endeavors for us.

In other news, it’s been about two weeks of having goslings. We are all astonished at how quickly they have grown. From our experience they are growing somewhere around double the pace of our baby chicks. The goslings graduated to their larger brooding area in the basement within a day or two of arriving and have been honking at all intruders who dare enter their little realm of the world ever since. Here are a few pictures so you can see all their cuteness.

Just Don’t Freak Out

I’m going to take off my homesteading, wholesome living hat for a bit and put on my adoptive parent hat. If you haven’t adopted or cared for a child from hard places, feel free to skip this one. Unless you are a parent, particularly the parent of a toddler, then you may find the following thoughts helpful as well.

We are approaching the two-year mark home with our boys, and while my husband and I still consider ourselves novices when it comes to parenting adoptive children, we have learned a thing or two from our experience thus far. The most important, besides seeking and relying on God for the duration, is to not freak out. Let me clarify. You may freak out to your spouse, your dear friend who’s been with you through the whole shebang and craziness that is the adoption journey (bless his or her heart), your parents, in-laws, pastor or whoever you feel is a trusted, safe person to expose and work through whatever insanity or radiant happiness (because perhaps you’re the one in a million who adopted a child who adjusts well to being removed from the place she’s known as home and plopped down in a completely different home, family and culture than her own) you’ve found yourself in.

However, the minute your adoptive child senses you might be worried, uncertain, displeased, upset, angry or disappointed in him or her (or perhaps just in general), shut down will most likely occur. It can last for hours, weeks and months. Lessons learned, gains made, skills mastered and sometimes even basic common sense is out the window as trauma rears its head. Often kids from hard places do not have the emotional tools needed to understand or even properly read emotion so they are often relying on their caretakers to be their emotional thermometer. If mom or dad is showing they are uncertain or are freaking out in some way, shape or form, then child will too and her response may look nothing like mom or dads. The child will go right into fight or flight. It’s what’s gotten them through in the past and it will take quite some time (think years) before they learn new coping skills.

Think of toddlers or that new mom who is hesitant to drop baby off at nursery. Toddlers do not have coping skills. Babies do not have coping skills. If she senses mom is hesitant to drop off or leave, usually baby will cry. She can sense mom’s apprehension and worry. If mom or dad drops their little one off confidently with a smile, baby or toddler is usually fine. No crying. No fighting and begging mom or dad not to leave. I recognize this is not an exact comparison and babies do react differently than I’ve described. However, ninety-five percent of the time this is the dynamic we’ve seen in our own family when we have a babysitter or take our little ones to their class, etc.

So what’s a new adoptive parent to do? Here are a few things we’ve found helpful.

One. Fake it till you make it. (We got this advice several times over when we first came home with our adoptive sons). At first we were aghast. Who wouldn’t fall in love with and adore their new adoptive children from the very first time they saw them on gotcha day? Who really needs to fake it? Well, we’ve since discovered, it’s actually pretty common for new adoptive parents not to feel all lovey-dovey towards adoptive children initially. Attachment takes time. Lots of time. Lots of bonding. Lots of doing life together. Purposefully choosing to find ways to connect. In the meantime, as attachment is growing, fake it. Smile at your child. Spend time with them. Care for them. Choose to love even if you don’t feel like it. Your child may freak out at your attempts. They may not be used to love. Unconditional love. He or she may push you away time and again to test if it really is unconditional. This is attachment. It will be one step forward and three steps backwards as he or she finds footing and learns what it is to be loved, what it is to be in a family. This is normal. You will get through. You may see some pretty interesting behaviors as this happens. Don’t freak out. Take a deep breath and count to ten. Try to reframe the behavior in your mind to see what is behind it. For instance, your child just (fill in the blank) because she needs to know you’ll always be there no matter what. This is not the time for lectures or consequences or freak-outs. This is the time to gather her in your arms and reassure her of your love for her. Later, you can go out for coffee with your trusted friend and let out all the craziness that will be going through your mind. But, in the moment, with your daughter. Don’t freak out.

Two. There will be surprises. Lots of them. Remind yourself of this over and over. Most likely, you have not had this child in your family since he or she was born. You do not know everything about him or her. You do not know how he or she ticks. Something will inevitably come up. We had one child who arrived on gotcha day with several scars from surgeries we knew nothing about. We also found out the same child had a completely different diagnosis than what was in the file. Don’t freak out. It is not the child’s fault. Absolutely, take some time to process. Work through it. Cry. Vent to your safe people. It will happen. Even if child arrives healthy and seems well-adjusted and even if everything in their file is accurate, something will come up at some point- happy or sad. There will be surprises. Don’t freak out.

Three. Read The Connected Child by Karen Purvis. Read it before adopting? Read it again after. Now, don’t freak out. There are more resources. Google “Trust-Based Relational Intervention”. See, I told you. Don’t freak out. There are many helpful resources out there for parenting children from hard places. You are not alone. Not even close.

Four. Adjust your expectations. Are they adjusted? Okay, now adjust them some more. This is how it goes. Sometimes expectations need to be lowered. Sometimes they need to be higher and sometimes they just need to go out the window entirely as you bond and attach (and even long after attachment seems secure). People warned us of this in advance. I remember telling people before we traveled to China, “We have no expectations really.” Bologna. We are all after all human beings and the minute the child is sitting in front of you, expectations – good or not so good- begin forming in our minds whether we want them to or not. Your child may meet those expectations or they may not. They may meet them today or they may meet them in a decade. They may never meet them. Don’t freak out. You will find a normal. It will most certainly take time (again, think years). It may look different from what you’d imagined, but it will happen. Even if it means adjusting to something hard, you will and, most likely, once you are there in your new normal, it won’t be as hard as you’d imagined it would be. Don’t freak out.

Five. Hang on to God Almighty and know beyond a shadow of a doubt you are in for the ride of your life. The highs will be higher than anything you could have ever imaged and the lows will feel like the closest you’ve ever been to the pit of hell. Seriously. Only God knows the plans and future of each of our kiddos- the adopted ones, the biological ones, the fostered ones, the neighborhood ones- all the kiddos. Just in case you haven’t realized it yet, allow me to point out, most of what I shared above also pertains to our relationship with our biological kids too. There will be surprises. Expectations will need to fly out the window. There are lots of times when love will need to be a choice. Don’t freak out. When it’s tough going and answers are nowhere to be found, know this. God has you. He’s carrying you. He knows your exhaustion. He knows how much work and hope you pour into those littles each and every day. He knows your expectations and your fears. Your fear of failure. Your fear the child you prayed for and love will never adjust, never thrive or realize how much they are loved. Your fear of not being enough. He knows you’re worried it will never get better and you’re terrified you don’t have the energy to keep on going. Don’t freak out dear friend. The God of the universe is walking alongside you, equipping you moment-by-moment and singing love over you so you can pour it all over and around those he’s brought into your home. Anchoring you. Anchoring them. He will carry you atop waters so deep and so heavy you never could have imagined being surrounded by such a storm so you can carry those littles when their courage falters and fear is closing in around them. And, one day, when those clouds fade and the sun is shining warm on your skin, you’ll look back across all those waves to the shore you so boldly left on your journey into parenthood and you’ll know it was all one hundred percent worth it because in all the crazy and uncertainty, you’ve realized, beyond any shadow of a doubt, He is faithful. He is able.

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work, until it is finally finished.

Philippians 1:6a

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Smitten

It’s day two of having goslings here and we remain absolutely fascinated. The goslings’ bodies are covered in the softest fluff and their little webbed feet make them wobble to and fro any time they’re puttering about, sparking giggles from anyone who’s watching. From the youngest to oldest, everyone is in love with the two newest additions to our crew. We introduced the goslings to Oreo, our guinea pig, this morning. He was rather ambivalent about the whole thing, either that or he was stunned to find himself stuck in between two goslings. The goslings were not phased in the least by Oreo. Their conversation, a series of musical chirps, continued on, uninterrupted by Oreo’s stares.

For now the goslings seemed to have helped reduce some of the cabin fever we’ve all been experiencing around here. We haven’t settled on names yet. There has been a lot of discussion on the topic. Suggestions for names have included: Coco, Suzy, Chubby, Gigi, Sammi, Quacker, Lily, Lizzie, Luna, Fatty, Skinny, and Warrior Princess. We’re open to suggestions if anyone has ideas. The goal for this weekend is to settle on their names and get their pen set up in basement for when they outgrow their current brood box, which is on our main floor so we can keep a close eye on the goslings when they are most fragile and also so we can get our fill of all the cuteness. There’s nothing quite like wiggly, squirmy, gorgeous new life.

They’re here!

They are here. Our two goslings arrived. We almost missed them.

I happened to check my junk folder late last night. In it I discovered an email saying our geese had been shipped. None of the other emails about the goslings had gone to junk. Surprised, I clicked the tracking number. Arrival date: tomorrow. Yikes. They were coming a day early! I still needed to get a few supplies. I signed up to get tracking texts from the USPS on my phone and went to bed.

“Ding.” I jumped awake. Shipment has left Texas.

3 a.m. “Ding”. Shipment is in IL.

5 a.m. “Ding”. Shipment is at local post office.

There was no going back to sleep after that. My initial thought that they wouldn’t arrive until the afternoon or even the following day was clearly not how it was going to play out and so, I placed my order online to pick up the last of our supplies as soon as the farm store opened for the day. Not going to lie, I was silently thanking God that our farm store has a drive thru the entire time I was ordering.

By this point, you may be wondering why I was in such a tizzy. Whenever ordering poultry through the mail, they usually have to travel quite some distance. The longer the animals travel the more stressed they become and it’s at increased risk for injury or death. So, it’s best to pick them up as soon as possible to get them under their heat lamp and give them fresh food and water. Usually the baby chicks, ducklings or goslings are only traveling for a day or maybe two (unless they hit a delay somewhere along the way) and they are just fine but it’s always best to err on the side of caution and pick them up as soon as possible.

So, this morning as soon as the kiddos were up and fed we loaded up and went to the post office. Sure enough, the ducklings (for friends) and goslings (for us) were there. They were all healthy and happy. We checked as soon as we got back to our van just to be sure. Admittedly, I was also quite curious to see what our goslings actually looked like.

Once opened, the goslings kept pushing the lid up off the box to try and escape. Once they got a nice crack going, the ducks were jumping up on the gosling’s backs and trying to hop out of the box. It was quite a team effort. I caught onto their antics before anyone escaped and plopped something on the lid to keep everyone contained till we got home. From the post office we went to our farm store and went through the drive thru to get the last of our supplies before heading home.

Let me just say again how much I love that our farm store has a drive thru. That is all. Okay. Back to this morning’s adventures.

We got home and got the ducklings and goslings all settled in under their heat lamp. We laughed at the funny way they all waddled and were still trying to find their balance a bit. Everyone had a chance to hold our two goslings and then we let them rest from their long journey and shock of finding themselves surrounded by four adoring children.

Our friends came by a bit later to pick up their ducklings. And, then, it happened. We discovered the precise reason geese are excellent guardians. It’s because they CARRY ON rather loudly whenever something happens. They announced to our entire home the grand injustice they’d experienced when their duck friends left them. For twenty minutes we heard all about it before they settled back down.

Now we know why a hawk may just not feel up to bothering chickens who have a few geese hanging around them. Good gracious. Drama. Drama. Drama. Looks like this may be a solid plan after all.

Geese. Are. Coming!

We spent the evening last night getting set up for a power outage. We got extra gas for the generator just in case we lost power for a few days (this has happened before…). Ryan got the generator all set up. We turned the fridge and freezers down and all the kids went to bed eagerly anticipating morning when, hopefully, Daddy and Joshua would both be home for the day. The ice came, coating everything in its path. But, it ended a few hours before dawn, which meant the salt had lots of time to work before anyone needed to drive on the roads. Husband went to work right on time and Joshua got on the bus same as always.

Our attention has now turned to the next great event of the week. Our geese are coming! They most likely hatched yesterday or today and will soon begin their two-day trip via the USPS to our family. Truth be told, I’m a bit nervous we’ve gone a bit far with this one. We did, after all, just get a guinea pig a few months ago. Nonetheless we’ve heard a few geese are a great way to keep predators at bay and we really do not want to lose any more chickens this year. We love having happy chickens that are free to roam about here and there, but sadly, so do hawks. I’m incredibly curious what our two geese will look like when they arrive. I’ve restrained myself from Googling “baby geese” and I’ve been happily imagining all sorts of funny looking creatures. Have you noticed I have not shared with you the type of geese we are getting? I did that on purpose so you can’t Google them either! Ha! We’ll all just be surprised together.

Mixed in with our geese will be a collection of baby ducks for some friends of ours. It will be exciting to see those too. We’ve seen baby ducks before and they melt your heart like nothing else, well, except for maybe baby chicks, but we are partial over here to chicks. I dislike the mess ducks create romping through water all the time (and we don’t have any patches of water over here either so that’s a slight dilemma as well) so we’ve never felt quite the urge to dive into duck keeping. Maybe one day. For now, we’re good with chickens, a cat, a guinea pig, and two geese (coming soon).