28 November 2018

In Abundance

The Twin Cousins visited!
For the past several years, we've been fortunate to have one side of the family or the other grace us with their presence over Thanksgiving. It certainly makes the holiday more lively and easier on me (cooking is split in half--hooray!) and most of all, I love watching my kids play with their cousins.
Most of the kids are old enough to remember who their cousins are and run happily to greet them when they arrive, immediately falling back into their happy relationships that fill the house with neverending noise. Usually, the good kind, even, not the bickering, yelling type.
Millie is not happy with our crowing rooster.
There is some adjustment for the city kids when they make it out to the farm, though. There's manure to dodge, mud to navigate, and loud, obnoxious animals at every turn. Some of the kids are not impressed.
The whole weekend was relaxing, with lots of downtime, especially centered around the pool table. It was occupied from early morning until well after the kids went to bed.
The only exception being when an electronic device was pulled out. Then everyone focused on that. Set a timer and everyone got their ten-minute turn, then it was back to playing pool.
He's sure he's handsome.
The biggest surprise of the weekend was the surprise arrival of three beautiful bourbon red turkeys. Jack surprised everyone by finding a free coop and sneakily bringing them home after picking them up from a coworker who has a little hobby farm. The tom is quite impressive and friendly (he loves to gobble back when he's spoken to) and the girls are so docile and gentle. Name suggestions welcome!
After a few days of preparation, there was food in abundance ready for our Thanksgiving meal, everything from butterhorn rolls to no cans allowed green beans, peanut butter pie, creamsicle jello, and everything in between. It was more than enough to feed us that day, and every day thereafter. In fact, we're still finishing off turkey and pie.
And somewhat miraculously, we managed to find more than enough seating for us and our guests, something I wasn't quite sure we were going to be able to pull off.
After Thanksgiving, it was back to work. None of us went Black Friday shopping but I was up bright and early with an ear infection (yes, I still get them in my ripe old age) but that didn't stop us from doing some chores that we'd been needing to get done.
Sadly, as we'd suspected, both our honeybee hives perished before winter really got started. One queen was old and the other hive was too weak since being split a tad late in the year. Live and learn and next year, we'll start again. Thankfully, they left us a parting gift of honey, so we uncapped the combs...
That honey extractor is a workout...and it nearly broke my mom's hand.
 ...spun it in the extractor to get it out...
...and maybe snuck a few taste tests to make sure it was good. It is.
Our usual trek to Steak 'n' Shake was on the menu...
...and we may have taken up the entire pool at my grandma's hotel for a couple of hours of fun.
Dolly gave us plenty of cream and the cousins learned all about how to separate and pasteurize the milk and cream. Then, we happily turned it into several batches of homemade ice cream (and we still have a quart of cream left!). 
There were plenty of card games played at our magnificently huge table, which was built only a few Thanksgivings ago.
A couple of the days were warm, sunny, and dry enough to play outside, so the kids all raced up and down the driveway on bikes, stakeboards, scooters, and on foot.
And even though the nights were chilly, that didn't stop us from visiting one of our favorite novelty ice cream shops, that turns liquid cream into delcious ice cream concoctions using liquid nitrogen. The kids would probably be happy just watching them make it. The ice cream is an added bonus.
Since we were downtown, we drove around Monument Circle, apparently along with the rest of Indiana. It was crowded and bustling with pedestrians, carriage horses, cars, and even Santa on his motorcycle.
We managed to get our Christmas lights up before cold, snowy weather struck again and if the kids got too cold, they enjoyed the view from the front door while staying in the warmth of inside.
And, as suspected, Evelyn and Kate were in a near-constant battle over holding Felicity, the youngest cousin. It's all in preparation for their next brother.
 Probably just as much as the rest of us, Raven enjoys having Ruby come for a visit. They wrestled and chased balls, took a trip through the ravine and Raven managed to roll in something incredibly smelly, resulting in a cold bath outside before she could come in. Otherwise, they were in doggy heaven the entire time.
And just like that, it was time for my girls to go back to school and the family to head home to Nebraska.
Don't ask me why Kate has bling on her forehead...I have no idea.
They packed up and were on the road before I even had to take the kids to school and managed to make it home through a blizzard before bedtime.
Goodbye won't be for long, though. We'll take our annual pilgrimage to Nebraska for Christmas, so we will see everyone soon. Still, the house is so quiet without everyone here. I guess that's good for catching up on housework and book writing goals. Otherwise, it's almost eerie. But, the week was one to remember and full of happy memories, where we were able to reflect on our abundant blessings--even with the challenges we're given--and how fortunate we are to live where, when, and how we do.
Best buds.
 Hope you all had a happy, blessed, fulfilling Thanksgiving!

24 November 2018

Breaking with Tradition

I love those first baby photos!
I think we all knew it was coming...we're expecting baby number six! We are thrilled to have another (and probably the last--as Jack will point out, I'm a geriatric mother after all this time) baby coming to our home, due at the end of April. Because, you know, we aren't already busy enough with Jack, Zoey, and Stoney's birthdays.

The big question has been, boy or girl?

Honest to goodness, we'd be happy with either. I love having girls (despite what people say) and love having a boy (despite what people say). Even since before we found out we were expecting, our kids and the twin cousins have been begging for another girl.
Evelyn has Kaylee...
...Claire has Lydia...
...Kate has Elsa...
...Henry has Holton...
...and Zoey has Millie.
But who'll be a twin cousin for Felicity?
Sorry to break with tradition

...but our next baby is a BOY!
I think Zoey was hoping for twins!
At first, Henry wasn't thrilled with the idea of a brother until we explained the boys wouldn't be quite so outnumbered at home and the girls think it'll be nice for Henry to have someone to roughhouse within a few years.

All around, we're all thrilled that another little one is on the way!

(And I guess my goal of losing the baby weight will have to wait a little while...)

18 November 2018

Prepared as Possible

This is the only kind of horseback riding we're going to get to do for a while.
Though I grew up as a city girl, I've had enough autumns on the farm to know that if you aren't ready for winter, you're going to be sorry when the freezing weather, snow, ice, and lack of green grass rolls around. Knowing that our weather was going to take a dip in temperatures, we spent the last warm-ish week making sure we were as prepared as possible.
Though the work isn't always the most entertaining and often requires a lot of walking, we make it work, especially when it's just Henry and Zoey with me. Usually, that means a lot of rides in the wheelbarrow so they can keep up, although it's sometimes a treacherous ride when it gets a bit off balance. Luckily, the kids think tipping around is pretty entertaining.
And, of course, if your big brother is going to be the one pushing, you'd better make sure you take precautions and wear a helmet.
One of the jobs we had to get done before snow (because pushing a wheelbarrow through snow is akin to torture), was to bring up the wood that had been stacked by the previous owner in one of the sheds so we could burn it in our fireplace. We didn't use our woodburning stove as much as we should've last year and after paying for the heating oil during our exceptionally long, colder-than-normal winter, I changed my tune.
It was definitely a workout pushing loads of wood uphill to the house but Henry was right there, ready to help. I love the kids' work ethic, which grows with them the bigger they get.
We checked all the animals and made sure they were as ready as possible for winter--that they're well-fed (Dancer is a bit too well-fed), that their fuzzy winter coats had grown in, and that generally, they're in good shape. Everything was in order with everybody.
Even without foreknowledge of the impending dreary winter weather, all the animals seemed to take advantage of the warmth and sun. No one can resist an afternoon nap, cows, cats, or horses.
Autumn around here is synonymous with harvesting. Left and right, there are combines eating up the corn and soybean fields (there's even a turnip harvest going on not far from us, which is all done by hand!). If Jack happens to spot a spill of corn on the road, he's the first to pull over and grab what he can so I can give the horses and cows a treat. True love, right there!
With the last of the green grass being nibbled away, we herd all the animals into the back paddocks so the pastures can rest. They're not happy to go but it's part of life.
Without grass on the pasture, that means we have to roll out hay for them. The first day they had access to a round bale of hay, they all stood there for about five hours straight, eating and eating and eating, then taking a nap on what they'd dropped outside of the hay ring, then immediately going back to eating when they had the tiniest space in their stomachs for more hay. Hay isn't all bad because, as inherintly lazy creatures, they relish being able to stand in one spot and eat.
Everyone sharing nicely at the hay ring.
Our introduction to winter weather was an ice storm. Our part of Indiana is prone to them and I am not amused by them. I'd rather have a foot of snow than deal with a sheet of ice on the roads. So, we broke out the winter gear and enjoyed the two hour delay from school, and kept on with life.
Of course, the kids find all of it magical and took every opportunity to sneak outside and eat an icicle. A little gross to me but it's good for their immune systems, I guess...
Whether or not we're ready, cold weather seems to be hear to stay so we might as well make the best of it. Like dressing up in bigger siblings' coats and boots and laughing at how baggy they are.
And riding on the penny pony at the grocery store because it's too chilly or dark or icy to go out and ride the real horses. At least they get a thirty-second riding lesson from me every time we go to the store.
He's even holding his reins correctly! This equestrienne is so proud.
Until spring arrives, we'll make the best of winter and hoped we've been as prepared as possible to meet what life brings us next!
Keeping with tradition! All the kids have had wheelbarrow rides while busy working.


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