Encouraging separation while holding tight…

I’m sitting in front of my computer this morning after drinking a really great cup of coffee and listening to the ever funny song “Cows with guns” by Dana Lyons. You see my coffee was the “AK47” from Black Rifle Coffee Company… so you see, there is a method to my madness… AK47… cows with guns… stay with me, I promise it gets better. Black Rifle Coffee is veteran owned and they hire a ton of veterans to do what the company does better than most… make amazing roast to order coffee… so that’s wow worthy and I love it!

Enough about coffee and farm animals with heavy artillery… let’s start learning to let go while we hold on tight.

This topic came to me early this morning as I lay in bed wrestling with my oldest son’s latest plan. His plan… head to Air Force Officer Training School (OTS) after he gets his college degree in three very short years.

You see, he turns nineteen in a little over a week and I may be having some struggles with having an adult that I gave birth to living and continuing to get older and older under my roof. As he gets older he becomes more “adulty”… you know… adulty… like an adult. How can he be an adult when I’m an adult… is it possible we can both be adults at the same time? I did not sign up for this when I kissed each of his little baby toes and fingers, stared into his big brown baby eyes with incredibly long baby eyelashes, listened for his “I’m hungry” baby cries, and sniffed the top of his baby head (don’t think I’m weird… the scent of the top of a baby’s head is like cocaine for mamas).

I thought it would be relatively easy to let my kids go when they reached adulthood. Not only would it be easy but as they kicked their little three year old feet in defiance over having to wear shoes, screamed as I made them take yet ANOTHER bath before a totally unfair early bedtime, and refused to eat anything other than beanie weenies for an entire year I envisioned myself packing their suitcases and throwing them on the first bus to boot camp on their 18th birthdays.

My oldest son’s 18th birthday came and went and he actually had been planning to enlist in the air force after high school but then decided to go to college instead. Secretly I breathed a HUGE sigh of relief… I wasn’t ready to let him go yet. In reality though, it was not my job anymore to “let” him go or even “make” him stay. My job had changed.

My job now was to hold him tight… in my arms, actions, and words when he was near me and in my heart and thoughts when he was away. My new job involved a new level of encouraging separation and independence. Encouraging separation has been easy for me to fake. I made him get a job outside the home at sixteen to encourage independence and responsibility. Inside I missed every fiber of his being when he headed off for each shift at work. On the outside I praised his success at work and didn’t make any kind of big deal about his absence from our home. The new normal, right? I hated the new normal for so long… I missed my son even though he was only gone each day for a short time.

I encouraged separation by teaching the realities of life with taxes, rent/mortgage payments, electric bills, phone bills, grocery shopping, laundry, relationships, and all the other million things that go into living away from the home of mom and dad. I taught him these things and then I refuse to let him do most of them. I did demand that he do his taxes the other day rather than letting him continue to put it off… so there, that’s something “adulty” he did.

Right now we live a life of encouraging separation by continuing to have our adult son do the things of adulthood… some on a regular basis (working, taking college classes, paying for the gas in his car, doing his own taxes etc.) and others on an “ok, you know how to do this if you would have to and we will ask you to do it on occasion but for the most part mom and dad will take care of it” (cooking meals, doing laundry, paying insurance etc.).

I hold my son tight by watching him like a hawk and I’m not ashamed of it. I’m not following him around all the time but I make it a point to get to know the folks he works with as well as his friends and their families. I actively initiate conversations about his college work, what he’s reading and watching, future plans, hobbies, his job, relationships, diet, and his spiritual path. I ask for his advice and help around the farm and home as a fellow adult rather than a kid. I don’t let him get away with a bunch of “I don’t know”,  “I guess”, or “Nothing”… there is always something meaningful going on in SOME aspect of one’s life and gosh darnnit I want to know about it when it comes to my family… and my friends… and acquaintances… and complete strangers if I’m being totally honest with you all.

Truth be told, this road of encouraging separation while holding tight is a tough one for many, including me. It looks different for each family and it often changes day by day. This opening of my heart all came about because I didn’t get my way recently regarding something with my oldest son. I caught wind of an internship with Vectren (local power company) that was right in line with my son’s degree program (Information Systems Security). I excitedly told him about it and pressured him like a used car salesman to jump at this opportunity and at least put in for it. He shut me down quickly and completely by simply saying, “No thanks, I have a plan and I’m not interested in that internship.” Not knowing when I’ve been defeated I pressed on that no plan of his could possibly be as good as my plan (not my best moment of parenting). Being the adult he is he didn’t fight back and simply told me, “No thanks” AGAIN (the nerve of that kid adult!) and went on to tell me that he planned on staying at Tractor Supply Company for now, focusing on school, get his degree and then apply for Air Force Officer Training School.

Honestly, my heart dropped at first because in his plan he didn’t stick around the home area to work after college. Continuing with the honesty thing, I selfishly prefer the holding tight when he’s around and I can see him, give him hugs, and have conversations with him anytime I want… the holding tight from afar, in my thoughts, heart, telephone conversations, and texts takes more work and I know I have the tendency to be lazy in this regard. But, the upside… the kid adult has a plan! My adult that my husband and I raised up HAS A PLAN! So, now my heart is not all droopy but rather right in the middle where I guess it’s supposed to be.

Sooooooo… what do I need to work on? Ugh… everything. But for right now my son is home and will be, God willing, for a few more years so we’ll just put some of this holding tight from afar on the back burner until I’m forced to acknowledge it as a reality. Maybe not the best plan but I think the coffee and the high from the call for bovine freedom, (seriously, listen to the “Cows With Guns” song (does have one swear word in it, sorry)) has worn off and I need another dose of optimism and caffeine.


images[2]Chirp… chirp… chirp… do you hear it? I was just heading in for some goat feed and their cute little chirping lured me over to them like a siren’s call. I was hypnotized and before I knew it I was signing my name in the ledger and walking out of the feed store with a box of chicks. Minimum of 6… I thought I better play it safe and get 10. Who does the minimum anyways? I have always been taught to go above and beyond so I assume this applies to chick buying as well.

I drive home talking to my little box of chicks… promising them a great future and lots of cuddles. And then… reality hits me… I was ill-prepared to bring home chicks. It’s mid February and the weather is still fluctuating wildly in southern Indiana. One day it’s 70 degrees and the next day it’s 30… ugh!

So this was me the second year we lived on our little homestead. The first year I had ordered some lovely cochins from Murray McMurray (hatchery that I HIGHLY recommend and am absolutely giddy about when I get their catalog!) and had everything ready for them when the post office called and told me my chicks had arrived. Yes, you read that right… companies MAIL chicks and they actually arrive in great shape (depending on the company and postal workers). I had a nice plastic baby pool with pine shavings and small square wire fencing making a nice round 2 foot high wall set up in a closed off room so the cats couldn’t get at them. Heat lamp was secure so there was no chance it could fall, waterer was set up with electrolytes and feeder was completely full with feed and a bit of chick grit mixed in. That was 7 years ago and those chickens are living happily on friends’ homesteads as we went through the great chicken purge in 2015 (totally got rid of ALL of our chickens!)

So then this second year of homesteading I had many adult cochin hens and a rooster who were doing great! Why would I add more chicks to the farm? Ummmmm… they are so cute and like I said, they hypnotized me. So, I had to come up with something fast to prevent these chicks from dying due to my crazy impulsiveness (could not be helped… hypnotized, don’t judge me). I’m going to hook you up with the basics needed to prevent chick death and even make them happy! You’ll see the “great way” and the “make do” way. Whenever possible do the “great way.”

Want a quick list, here you go…

Brooder (bin, box, playpen, or whatever  to put them in)

Food dish and food

Water dish and water

Heat source

Grit (you can buy it or put some clumps of grass with dirt attached in brooder)

Brooder bedding/paper towel

  1. Shelter: chicks need to be free from drafts, wetness, and kept relatively warm. When they are with mother hen they tuck up under her feathers for warmth so when you can provide something similar to that they will be happy. Chick shelters are called “brooders”. A “great” brooder is a large round/oval plastic bin of some sort. Many people use empty water troughs(50 to 100 gallon size are great for 20 or so chicks) because they have nice high sides, are easy to disinfect/clean, and provide no holes for drafts to come through. The “make do” shelter can be a plastic tote for a few chicks or even a large box. Just watch out that the chicks don’t all huddle in one corner and squish the poor chick unlucky enough to be on the bottom.
  2. Water: chicks need clean fresh water at all times. Chicks will dehydrate quickly and die if they don’t have access to water. The “great” waterer is the simple plastic water containers sold in the chicken section of your feed stores (or online). If you have 10 or more chicks save yourself the hassle of refilling little waterers nonstop and go ahead and get the 1 gallon waterer. The “make do” waterer can be any shallow pan (pie pan or whatever) with water in it and some rocks so the chicks won’t climb in and drown. **IMPORTANT** when you bring your chicks home and take each one out of the box to put in the brooder check their bottoms for pasty butt (see below for what to do about that) and then dip their beaks into the water source in the brooder. This lets them know where the water is! It is always a good idea to provide some electrolytes in chick’s water for the first day when you bring them home to help combat the stress of travel. Feed stores sell special chick electrolytes but you can also just mix 1 Tbs (that’s tablespoon) of regular sugar in with a gallon of water for them.
  3. Food: If you have dual purpose or typical chickens for egg laying feed them the regular chick starter food. Often you see “starter” food and starter/grower” food in the chicken section. Check the back of the bag for recommended ages as brands differ on what they recommend. If you have meat chicks (cornish rocks etc.) try to find the meat bird chick food. No big deal if you can’t. DO NOT feed the meat bird chick food to chicks that you don’t plan on butchering within 6 months.                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Medicated or unmedicated? Medicated feed is formulated for chicks to help them combat coccidiosis, a disease that is found just about everywhere in the environment. Most medicated starter feeds contain the medication amprollium. If your birds have been vaccinated against coccidiosis, feeding them medicated feed will nullify the coccidiosis vaccination, although it will not hurt them. You certainly don’t have to feed medicated food! I usually feed medicated chick food as the amprollium is well out of their system by the time they start laying eggs 5 or 6 months later (they are on a different food at that age).
  4. Heat source. “Great” option, they make these super safe little rectangle chick warmers (I’ve seen them in magazine and online) that sit low in the brooder and allow the chickens to huddle under them all cozy and happy. “Make do” option is the classic super dangerous and inexpensive thin metal heat lamp with red heat bulb. Why is it super dangerous you ask? Well, because it gets quite hot and can catch something on fire if it gets too close to something burnable. I’ve seen many barns and hen houses burned down because of the ol’ heat lamp. With that being said, I have used heat lamps for 7 years now and take extra precautions to make them safe as possible. I clip my heat lamp (often comes with a clamp) at the proper distance above the chicks and attach two safety chains to the lamp and a support above. If the clamp fails and the lamp falls it will be stopped by the chain about a foot from the base of the brooder.                                                                                                                                                                                                                            When deciding how far away from the chicks you should put the heat lamp let the chicks tell you. Place the heat lamp about 2 feet over the chicks, towards one end of the brooder. If they all huddle directly under the light and are chirping loudly they are too cold and it needs to be lowered. If they are on the far end of the brooder trying to escape the light it is too low and too hot. You may need to change the height depending on temperature in day and night etc. What you are looking for is chicks slightly spread apart (maybe little groups of 2 or 3) all around the glow of the light laying quietly and happy. Place their food on the edge of the light circle towards the middle of the brooder if it is larger. If you have a very big brooder or a long brooder you may need more than one heat source.
  5. Grit: So let’s talk chicken physiology for a moment… Chickens do not have teeth to grind up their food. Instead they use grit in their gizzard to grind the food. Grit is just hard rocks or sand. If you buy grit, it will probably be granite because it is really hard and works well, plus it is a cheap by-product of granite quarrying. But about any rock will work as grit. The harder it is the longer it will last. Good granite might last a month. Softer rocks could be gone in days. “Great” method is buying the small bag of chick grit in the chicken section of the feed store… it will last you FOREVER! “Make do” method is grabbing some dirt and putting it in the brooder. If all the chicks eat is the prepared chick feed, they do not need grit. It has already been ground up real fine, then formed into crumbles using water. Their gizzard can handle that just fine. I add a nbit of grit to my chick food because I do put garden weeds, clover, mealworms, etc. in for my chicks. If you feed them about anything else (other than just the chick feed), they should have grit. It’s not that they are automatically going to die if they don’t have grit, but it is a possibility. Remember that just because something can happen does not mean that it will each and every time. What can happen with some foods, like grass, is that it can form a wad in their gizzard and cannot pass on through their system. It can block the exit from their gizzard so nothing can pass through and cause a condition called impacted gizzard. Don’t freak out because you gave your 3 day old chicks some grass without having grit for them. They will probably be fine. Just know it can cause a problem. What I like to do is pick a clump of grass or weeds (make sure they have not been treated with pesticides!) and just make sure some of the dirt is still attached on the bottom and I lay it on its side in the brooder, they love it, especially if they find a worm in the clump!
  6. Brooder bedding: If your chicks have already been on pine shavings in the feed store then go ahead and use those if you want in your brooder. If you are getting new chicks from the hatchery mailed to you put down paper towel instead of shavings for the first couple days so they know to eat the food in your feeder rather than the shavings. Don’t sue newspaper as it tends to get slippery when wet and can cause splay leg in chicks. Besides, we don’t want to depress those chicks with our world news.




Pasty butt: Often the stress of traveling, over-crowding, sickness and just stress of life itself can cause chicks to have “pasty butt.” It is simply when droppings stick to the down by the chick’s vent (booty) and get crusty and hard after time. If left to go too long it blocks other droppings from exiting and the chicken will die. I have heard expert after expert tell people to take a nice warm cloth and gently wipe the area until it is clean. Ok, that is great… in fact we will call that the “great” method and I have tried that over and over again but have had mixed results. Sometimes the vent stayed clear and sometimes it got all pasty again.

My other method, we’ll call it the “make do” method requires some tough love but it has 100% effectiveness and takes literally 1 second. I simply hold the chick firmly, grab the clump at the base and pull off the hardened droppings (only works when the pasty butt has hardened). Yes, it pulls the down/fuzz out with the clump of droppings and yes the chick usually gives a little chirp like, “Hey, that hurt, you jerk!” but none of my chicks have ever had a recurrence of pasty butt after doing that because there is nothing for the droppings to stick to.

Feather duster: I tried this a couple years ago and the chicks LOVED it. I got one of those ostrich feather dusters and hung it upside down in the brooder somewhat close to the heat lamp (keeping safety in mind because wow, I bet those feathers are flammable!) and all of those chicks huddled under it like it was their mama, they loved it. I even freaked out one day because I thought something had gotten them but they were ALL tucked up under that feather duster! I have it hanging about an inch or two above the brooder floor/shavings.

There ya go… just my quick little chick 101 for these awesome chick days that are upon us! Show me your chicks or tell me all about how they hypnotized you too!

Signing off… for now…


Fridays on the Farm. Convalescent leave… according to Ratchet…

Ratchet... don't fall for that cute face!

Ratchet… don’t fall for that cute face!

So, as many of you know a few months ago we retired Nala (8 year old long haired German Shepherd) from livestock guardian dog to pampered inside house dog. This left Fuzzy Bear (7 year old Great Pyrenees livestock guardian dog) without a partner. In comes Ratchet… an amazing Great Pyrenees pup we got from some amazing friends up by Indianapolis.

He’s been here for a few months and has grown into a wonderful pup and perfect partner for Fuzzy Bear. As the weeks flew by we knew he was getting closer and closer to the time of the dreaded surgery… the neuter.

Surgery was done when he was just over 5 months old and a still happy puppy returned home in apparently no pain (pain meds given just in case). We thought we were in for a couple calm weeks of convalescent leave while he recovered inside. I mentioned this dog is accustomed to being out with the goats, chickens, rabbits, cats, horses, and Fuzzy Bear 24/7 right? Well, if I hadn’t mentioned it let me make it very clear now… this pup is not accustomed to the wonderful world of “inside.”

Soooo…. Let me take you on a tour of our convalescent time with Ratchet as he recovered from his neuter surgery.

  • He taught himself to push the water cooler spout on… but not off.
  • He learned to shred paper towel straight off the roll that was obviously offending him by his proximity to his kennel.
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  • He learned to eat drywall through his kennel because it too obviously offended him by its proximity to the kennel (the wall folks… the wall offended him so he ate holes in it)
  • He learned to dump an entire water dish on the floor by grabbing the towel it sat upon an running.
  • He found a fun game in grabbing my neighbor’s ball of yarn that she was CURRENTLY knitting with and running with it…several times (I hope she’s still willing to dog sit on occasion)
  • He learned the delicate art of performing a squeakerectomy and destuffing of eight dog toys.
  • He managed to lose six baby puppy teeth and lovingly hand them over to Echo (husky puppy) to chew on.
  • He learned to dig to China in the mud puddles in the back doggy potty area… yup we’ll stick with hoping they were all “mud” puddles.
  • He learned how to open the baby gate from the kitchen and let loose the entire herd of dogs (during some cold and stormy snaps we had all 6 dogs inside… 2 German Shepherds, 2 Great Pyrenees, Siberian husky pup, golden retriever).
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It was a LONG 2 weeks of recovery but I am glad to say Ratchet has been returned to livestock guardian dog duties OUTSIDE and he…me…all of us couldn’t be happier.

Fridays on the Farm… Pre-Thanksgiving diet… or not

Me... Fuzzy Bear

Me… Fuzzy Bear

Fuzzy Bear reporting…

Ok, listen up folks, seriously, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… this farm needs its own reality show. Well, at least one lonely soul to follow Farmer Lady around with a camera to capture some of this stuff on film. I can’t make this stuff up,  even if I tried and no television show holds a candle to the shenanigans she finds herself in.

Let’s take today for example… farmer Lady’s friend texted and said she had deer scarps left from her dad’s processing and wanted to know if we’d like them. Ummmmm… duh…. YES! Guns scare the livin’ daylights out of me but I’m all for venison so I’ll support hunters. Farmer Lady went and picked up three huge garbage bags full of meaty venison deliciousness.

As she hauled the bags out of the trailer I could hardly contain my exhilaration. Ratchet sauntered over to check out the intoxicating aroma of fresh meat.

Dear puppy,

This is venison… and it’s… well… it’s like tasting heaven. Please understand Ratchet puppy that there may not be enough venison for you… after all I am rather large and we all know Axel, Buddy, Nala, and I will get meaty legs. Puppy, a deer only has four legs. You can’t count yet puppy but there are four big dogs ahead of you. I’m sorry puppy.

Farmer lady parceled out legs as was right and then gave me instructions that I don’t think I heard correctly. It seems that the words, “Now Fuzzy, you share with Ratchet,” inexplicably stumbled from her lips. Surely I heard her wrong. Had she lost her mind?

The moment her back was turned I grabbed my leg and disappeared deep into the woods where no pup dared follow. I returned about thirty minutes later after successfully burying my treasure and found Farmer Lady emptying the garage deep freeze to “make room” for her amazing venison haul. Ratchet was cheerfully shredding and wolfing down strips of delectable venison. There was a whole pile of mouthwatering meat that we were all expected to share nicely while farmer Lady would freeze the rest. Expectations are set pretty high on The Shepherd Hobby Farm and we live up to them well so we shared happily, all five of us.

As she emptied and organized frozen meat into baskets Ratchet was grabbing chunks and scampering to the far corners of the garage. I gave a low growl of warning to the little tyke but it barely fazed him. To top it all off I got a reprimand from Farmer Lady while her head was buried in the freezer, “Fuzzy, be nice to him.”

Farmer Lady finally looked up as Ratchet was dragging off a bag of delicious duck meat. Ooooohhhhh he was gonna be in trouble! “Silly puppy,” was her response… really? “SILLY PUPPY”… that’s it? I really should go on strike, the treatment at this hobby farm is unfair! She retrieved ratchet’s stash of meat and placed every hunk back in the baskets. Once again, she dove head first into the deep freeze and once again Ratchet started dragging off hunks of meat from the baskets. I could not believe my eyes… the audacity of this pup and the utter ignorance from this woman… Something had to be done.

I snapped at Ratchet and he dropped his latest conquest, a bag of chicken feet. I picked up the bag and attempted to place it back in the basket. Just at that moment Farmer Lady pulled out of the deep freeze and saw me standing there, over the basket, with a bag of chicken feet in my mouth. “Fuzzy… were you the one who taught Ratchet to be a little thief? You goofy girl, I’m going to have to keep an eye on you!”

That was just too much. I dropped the bag and walked off. She is shunned… I am giving her the cold shoulder for at least a week… she will not be allowed to rub my big, white, soft , fluffy head… I will pick my own burrs out of my fur… I will go without brushing for the week… and there will be no high fives from this dog. That should show her! As for Ratchet… well I just don’t know. I like the little guy but he really seems to get me in trouble with little to no effort.

Completely unrelated, my afternoon did end on a high note when Farmer Lady forgot she had plugged the horses’ electric fence in and proceeded to duck under “real quick” to brush out manes. She got the shock of a lifetime all the way up her spine and admittedly I giggled. Instead of backing out she went forward and found herself quite stuck in the paddock surrounded by electrified polytape. The big barn door was locked from the inside so she couldn’t go through there and she hadn’t put the new gate on its hinges yet so it was still secured quite well with strong zip ties. I do believe I saw her processing the possibility of chewing through those zipties rather than low crawling under the electric fence. In the end she low crawled under the fence and ratchet licked her face the entire time. Well played pup, well played.

Bon Appétit,

Fuzzy Bear


Memories… kittens in jerseys…

Not me... but it soooooo could have been!

Not me… but it soooooo could have been!

As I was driving home from town today I noticed a family of kittens playing in a side field of a cute little homestead. Their mother cat looked on, ever vigilant for a hawk overhead or a fox over yonder, as the kittens romped with each other covered in soybean field dander.

I had Axel, our 2 year old German Shepherd, in the Sienna with me and he spotted them immediately as well, ears pricked and eyes intent. There just happened to be a bit of a field entrance just ahead so I pulled in. killed the engine, sat and watched.

Memories of a bike ride with my husband two years ago came flooding back to me as Axel and I sat watching the kittens play. Kevin and I had been riding on back country roads and we saw several cute, little, adorable kittens playing in the front yard of a farm house. We were about fifteen miles from home and I begged to stop and ask the farmer if I could have some of his kittens. My husband thought for a moment and simply said, “You can have as many kittens as you can fit into your riding gear.”

At first, all I really heard was, “You can have…” It took a little bit for the rest of his words to sink in as I looked down at my padded spandex cycling shorts, skin tight cycling jersey, and full water bottle holders.

A ray of hope sprang forth as I reached into my pockets on the back of my jersey, but alas they just didn’t seem like appropriate kitten carrying devices. As we rode past I longingly looked after the kittens, contemplating the wisdom in stuffing kittens into an already tight jersey.

No kittens joined the farm that day but at least Kevin didn’t say “NO”… there is hope for that man yet in my quest for him to love cats!

Flash forward two years and Axel and I sit and watch kittens play joyfully in the field. I wonder what Kevin would say if I would bring home a few kittens to join our group of fourteen cats on the farm… this time I tell myself “NO” and grin as I think how proud of me Kevin will be as I arrive home without more kittens.

Fridays on the Farm… Oops she did it again…

Me... Fuzzy Bear

Me… Fuzzy Bear

Fuzzy Bear Reporting…

Ooops she did it again… she played with my heart… got lost in the game…she thinks I’ll be in love… he’s not that innocent…

The Farmer Lady pulled up two weeks ago with a “surprise” for the farm. She had been gone all day, probably traveled to the ends of the earth and back in search of the perfect fit for the farm. There had been no discussion, no vote, no attempts at coming to a calm reasonable compromise. Nope, she just did it and assumed we would all be thrilled.

Well… I’m not thrilled. I’m not upset either… I am merely my typical stoic “not involved with stupid ideas” self. I don’t mean to keep you in suspense because really, it’s not that big of a deal. In fact it’s quite a small deal. A small bundle of fluffy furry adorable kind of deal that has puppy breath.

Farmer lady took it upon herself to make the decision to retire my faithful partner Nala (long haired German Shepherd) and get a replacement. It was Nala who was the brains of the operation while I have  most certainly always been the brawn. It’s not that I’m not intelligent, it’s just that my breed (Great Pyrenees) tends to run more on instinct and a “I’ll do what I want” mentality.

Let me tell you a secret

Let me tell you a secret

I don’t begrudge Farmer Lady for retiring Nala, it’s always good to end on a high note… but I fully expected her to replace my partner with one of equal or greater value and assets. Ummmmmm… well, let’s just say I won’t be trusting Farmer Lady in the decision making department anytime soon. She brought home a Great Pyrenees folks… a same as me fluffy, impulsive, instinctual and adorable Pyrenees.  Big brown eyes, huge blocky head, floppy ears, and a perpetual want for ear rubs and back scratches.

What was she thinking? I drive her nuts… why would she want to get another one of me? What crazy plan was she hatching? Was I the next to go and a cute little German Shepherd puppy would take my place? I wouldn’t put it past her, this senseless lady who claims she has a shred of knowledge about livestock and farm guarding. Step back Farmer Lady and leave the real livestock guardian work to the experts, me and Nala.


Unfortunately Farmer Lady’s two sons fell in love with the puppy instantly and that sealed the deal… he was here to stay.

Do I have to accept it? Do I have to teach him the ways of The Shepherd Hobby Farm as Nala taught me? I did not sign up for any of this and to be honest I’m a pretty horrible teacher and even worse babysitter. I once took our two sheep on an unauthorized three mile field trip off the property and up old Rockport Road. We were gone less than an hour or two (stupid sheep stopped to graze all along the way… focus students, focus!). I was met by a very irate Farmer Lady upon our return and was placed in one of the goat enclosures for a whole two days to “think about what I had done.” I would have stayed in there longer but I jumped the fence and made my way to the freedom and soft couch of our lovely neighbor.

You just relax Fuzzy, I've got this covered

You just relax Fuzzy, I’ve got this covered

I digress, back to this puppy business. His name is Ratchet and apparently he’s the cutest thing on the planet. Named after the medic on Transformers, he is a 10 week old male Great Pyrenees from veteran livestock guardian parents. Healthy as can be and as playful as a bear cub hopped up on cotton candy. Didn’t the medic from Transformers hate violence? If that’s the case then this pup is not living up to his name as he chases me around nipping at my ears, licking my face, and grabbing onto my tail as if it’s his own personal rope pull toy. If that’s not violence then I don’t know what is. Well, maybe not violence but annoying and that’s about the same thing, right? I’ve been tolerant, really I have. There’s NO WAY I was this annoying as a puppy to Nala… is there? Please tell me no… I just don’t think I could live with myself if I ever acted the way this little puppy is acting. Is this normal people?

I’ve tried just walking away but the little hippo follows me everywhere. And yes, I do mean EVERYWHERE! Can’t a girl go to the bathroom in peace? Moms out there, can you back me up? TO make matters worse if I walk too far away then I get a stern talking to from Farmer Lady for “leading the puppy astray.” Really woman? I’ve got rounds to make, things to do, and livestock to guard. This perimeter isn’t gonna check itself now is it?!?!

A moment of peace and quiet for the great white ghost

A moment of peace and quiet for the great white ghost

My beautiful reprieve comes when the Farmer Lady heads inside and the pup is taken to his puppy prison enclosure where he gives me those huge brown sad puppy eyes just begging me to bust him out. Those eyes are penetrating… like that tear inducing arms of an angel song… gets me every time.  Nala heads inside with Farmer Lady to enjoy retirement and oddly enough I feel no jealousy. I really can’t stand it in inside… nothing to guard, annoying Axel and Buddy always wanting to play, threats of baths constantly looming overhead and absolutely no piles of horse poo to roll in… not sure what Nala likes so much about that “inside” place… must be a shepherd thing.


Looking at this puppy I have to admit, he’s got heart and instincts. Brains… not sure on that and I shudder to think if I will, from this point out, be known as the “brains” of this operation. He’s also cute, I gotta give credit where credit is due on that one. Not snow white like me but light colored with some streaks of grayish black that makes him look like he’s had himself buried in the chimney ashes. At least there’s no chance he’ll steal my nickname “the ghost”. Ghosts can only be white, everyone knows that. Also, he certainly isn’t stealthy and ghosts are stealthy… anyone can hear him coming a mile away… we’ll have to work on that.

Cool, the puppy playground has arrived. You don't mind do you Fuzzy Bear?

Cool, the puppy playground has arrived. You don’t mind do you Fuzzy Bear?

He did attack a mole yesterday and flung it a good two feet. Granted, the mole was already dead and therefore not that difficult to catch, but at least he didn’t try to cuddle with the thing as I’ve see some of the cats do. Cats are weird.

Is Ratchet a livestock guardian yet? Farmer Lady says yes, I say no… I think we all know who has the final say here…

Maybe I’ll take the pup snipe hunting tonight…


Deepest regards from the last standing livestock guardian at The Shepherd Hobby Farm,

Fuzzy Bear


Meeting of the minds

Meeting of the minds

wait for me guys... I'm coming too!

wait for me guys… I’m coming too!

Hi guys, I'm HERE!

Hi guys, I’m HERE!


I love my big white bed!

I love my big white bed!

Afraid to Eat…

Yes, this is me... but.... if you love something you have to be willing to let it go, right?!?!

Yes, this is me… but…. if you love something you have to be willing to let it go, right?!?!

This is me now... unfortunately

This is me now… unfortunately

Soooo… how did your day go? Me? Not so great…

Up until my mid twenties I was healthy as an ox… well as healthy as a healthy ox could be… are oxen notoriously healthy? Hardy, yes… but healthy… we’ll say yes. Growing up it was my brother who was plagued by the dreaded hay fever and pollen allergies. Poor guy suffered every spring and summer allergy symptoms while I frolicked carefree in the fields of clover and fescue… kicking up pollen as I went.

Things are different now… A stroke knocked me on my booty (literally) in my mid twenties and shortly after I started having digestive issues whenever I ate beef. Over the years doctors diagnosed irritable bowel syndrome, gallbladder issues, joint issues due to favoring my left side (residual effects of stroke), and many other “it might be this” diagnosis. None of the treatment plans helped for long.

Finally in 2013, the proverbial straw broke the camel’s back and I ended up in the emergency room with horrendous abdominal cramps, vomiting, covered in hives, and unable to breathe. That night shots of adrenalin saved my life and for the first time ever I never even felt the needle sticks (I have an epic fear of needles). The relief was amazing as my airway opened, I stopped vomiting, the hives began to diminish, and slowly but surely the abdominal pains eased.

The days that followed had me frightened of everything I ate. My meals became nothing other than oatmeal and water.  The emergency room doctor had figured it was an anaphylactic reaction to something I ate but we had no idea what had spurred it on.

Within a couple days I was sitting in an allergist/immunologist’s office answering question after question. What did I eat that day and the days preceding? Had I ever had allergies? Had I been ill? On and on the questions went and then I started my allergy testing. I figured the testing was coming and honestly the thought of many needles being poked in my arm or back (or wherever they poke the million needles for allergy testing) was one that drove me to the brink of insanity. I mentioned my fear of needles, right?

Truth be told, it wasn’t that bad. Four big panels were done covering the entire width and length of both my inner arms from wrists to shoulders and when the panels were pressed down it felt like a stiff bristled hairbrush tapping my skin… not bad at all.

AND THEN… the reaction started! On my right wrist there was a test for “Beef.” Ummmmmm… that spot got angry FAST! I watched as that spot got redder and redder… raising up to Mt McKinley proportions and itching like crazy. I tried to blow on it… that didn’t help. I couldn’t itch it (side note… my husband says “itch” isn’t a verb but I claim it is) because I had to keep my arms straight out on the table. I tried to look the other way and ignore it… nope, didn’t work.

I can’t remember how long I sat there that day nor what they gave me to relieve the reaction afterward but I do remember coming back in for a follow up appointment where I was told I was allergic to beef. It made sense… that night I went to the emergency room I had gobbled down a tasty grilled hamburger… the last one I may ever eat. I was bummed… like just ended a lifelong love affair with someone bummed. I love steak… an awesome New York Strip, medium rare with roasted garlic butter… I’m literally drooling right now.  We were the family that got a half of cow to store in the freezer and went through it in six months… we liked our red meat! I was given a prescription and joined the “epi-pen carrying” club. My husband and I showed our boys how to inject the life saving adrenalin in my thigh and we all hoped the time would never come where we had to use that knowledge.

The lonestar tick... bigger than a deer tick and the tell tale white spot on its back

The lonestar tick… bigger than a deer tick and the tell tale white spot on its back

A few weeks went by and I had another reaction that landed me in the emergency room after eating bacon. Back to the allergist/immunologist. Pork was out for me… no more bacon, pork chops, pulled pork barbecue… you know, all the stuff that tastes AMAZING!  My blood was taken at that visit and sent to the University of Virginia where studies were just beginning exploring an allergy to mammal meat brought on by the bit of a lonestar tick. This allergy has become known as “Alpha Gal” allergy and my test results confirmed that I did indeed have this allergy. My life free from consuming mammal meat had began.



Sidenote… VERY few people who get bit by the lonestar tick develop the alpha gal allergy but if you have suspicions head to an allergist/immunologist as it is a blood test that can yield exact results.

It was quite difficult for me to get used to eating turkey bacon, turkey burgers, and cutting all mammal meat out of my diet. I scoured the internet and my cookbooks for all scrumptious chicken, fish, turkey, and vegetarian recipes.  I found a bunch and my family was amazingly supportive of this diet change. We substituted ground turkey for every dish we had ever used ground beef in and we ate out less because I was honestly scared that an ingredient used would contain some sort of mammal product.

Chicken, turkey, duck, and fish… those were my only proteins allowed unless I wanted to get into insect eating (I did not and do not).

As the years went on I seemed to be getting more and more sensitive as cross contamination (i.e. cooking a chicken breast on the same spot of a grill that a steak or hamburger had previously been cooked on) reared its ugly head and caused several allergic flare-ups. Gelatin got me a few times (sneaky ingredient that is beef based and in a lot of things). A beef collagen casing around a turkey sausage got me once and don’t even get me started on the pork base many chefs use when preparing duck dishes. I did yearly testing each October and for some reason my numbers kept increasing (more severe allergy).

It was around this time, early in my allergy diagnosis, that I realized how spoiled I was when it came to food. I was seriously pitching an adult fit about not being able to eat steaks, ribs, and hamburgers. If I couldn’t have them, neither could my family. I refused to cook any mammal meat at home and had an everlasting grumpy face when anyone ordered beef or pork in a restaurant. I seriously missed meat… how ridiculous is that?!?!

YUMMMM but quite deadly to me

YUMMMM but quite deadly to me

Within the first year after cutting mammal meat from my diet I became severely anemic which drastically affected my energy, digestion, and mood. Not realizing the problem I let it go on far longer than I should have and became so anemic it affected my teeth and gums. Root canal after root canal and several oral surgeries fixed issue after issue over the next year until my anemia was diagnosed and treated.

Late in 2014 my anemia had been treated and I was able to train for a once in a lifetime (though I want to do it again) eight day bicycle ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles, CA. My husband and I cycled with over 250 other riders as part of the biggest annual fundraiser of the Arthritis Foundation (the ride is called California Coast Classic). Each day I was burning through thousands of calories as I just kept pedaling along… by the ocean and up and down some crazy hills (Twin Sisters anyone?). Breakfasts fueled me with amazing spinach omelets and by supper time I longed for red meat to energize my sore and aching muscles. Instead I wolfed down tofu smothered in barbecue sauce (while meat eaters enjoyed ribs) and any kind of chicken I could get my hands on.  Pasta was my lifeline and throughout the day I gorged on honey peanut butter sandwiches, pickles, pineapple juice and bananas. My body was starting to get used to the lack of red meat. Iron supplements helped me keep the anemia at bay the next year as I learned how to control it better with diet alone.

Time chugged along and sometimes I found people trying to inadvertently kill me… Doctors who prescribed medications in gelcaps when I specifically told them I cannot take gelcaps (gelatin, beef based, though some are now plant based).  Chefs who’d add bacon to a dish (without having it printed in menu) because that just seemed to be the thing to do to make EVERYTHING better. In premise, I agree, bacon does make everything better but for me it’s possible death. Then they look at me like I’m crazy when I say I can’t just pick it off… they think I am the pickiest person on the planet and frankly sometimes I get tired of explaining an allergy that is so incomprehensible that few believe it’s real. I try to be patient and clarify the severity of the allergy so they truly understand that I am not out to make their life difficult. Folks are usually quite flabbergasted and go through the list of what they think I can and cannot eat… automatically assuming I can’t eat chicken, turkey or fish. I usually say if it lays an egg I can eat it and if it doesn’t then I can’t. It’s remarkable how many folks think chickens, turkeys, and fish are mammals J

Fast forward three years from initial diagnosis and we come to today. Today I went in to my allergist/immunologist for two reasons. First, it was about time for my annual testing and second, I had a severe allergic reaction about three months ago that landed me in the emergency room and I could not figure out what brought it on (I had consumed no mammal).  I was perplexed. My allergist/immunologist was not perplexed at all. After the usual million questions he told me that I am the few among the few who fit into a “special” alpha gal allergy group.

Apparently, less that 2% of alpha gal allergy folks have a type of the allergy where it gets more and more severe as time goes on for no known reason. These folks have severe joint issues and pain as well as an overactive immune system for things unrelated to histamines. Great, just great. New research on this subset of the alpha gal allergy community has just begun in Virginia and my doc submitted my case to be included. My regular million (I may exaggerate… remember I don’t like needles) tubes of blood were taken today as well as an additional BAG of blood  to be sent off to the alpha gal experts in Virginia.

Oh, and wondering what caused my reaction a few months ago? Well, the doc says it was too much dairy. The blood tests will reveal the specifics and severity but as of today I am to cut all mammal dairy from my diet. For real? SERIOUSLY? Those words escaped my mouth as I sat there in that little exam room watching my doc’s fingers fly across his keyboard.

He stopped, looked me straight in the eye and said, “Do you have cancer?”

Bewildered, I stammered  “Well… no.”

“Exactly.” He replied.

I understood that yes, it could be worse. So much worse. However, as I walked out that day trying to remember where I parked all I could think about was calling my husband to initiate the pity party for Jhenna. Ice cream… nope. Butter… nope. CAKE…nope. I texted, he called back, pity party ensued and then he said the same thing that the doc did… “It could be worse.”

Coffee, I still have my blessed coffee. It could be worse folks, it definitely could be worse. If you can, head out and have a New York strip for me J I’m dealing better with others eating beef and pork around me and I even cook mammal meat for my family now (grilled great burgers for them tonight and I had a lovely turkey sandwich because turkey burgers are depressing.)

So yes, it could be worse but gosh darnit it could be better too.  In the last year I have dealt with severe joint issues in my right shoulder and pain continuing to worsen in my left shoulder. I narrowly escaped surgery in my right shoulder because of a mixed blessing of this alpha gal… massive bone spur formation that allowed muscles, ligaments, and tendons to reattach to a bone spur lengthened shoulder/arm bone where they wouldn’t have been able to if my hyper immune system had not made the bone spurs. Had to have the frozen shoulder fixed but that was a small price to pay compared to surgery!

Looking back to my mid twenties it is quite possible I have had this alpha gal allergy for over 10 years and it has just gotten progressively worse. What started as abdominal cramps and digestive issues has slowly grown to anaphylactic shock. Research is going full steam ahead as more folks are diagnosed and it is better understood… this is good.

So now I’m back to being afraid to put food into my mouth… a dairy allergy is new to me and I fear dairy is in FAR MORE foods than I ever dreamed.  We will see…

So now… well, I wait. I wait for results and I redo this week’s meal plan… If I can’t have cheese then NO ONE gets tacos!

Teen Dating… What’s a Parent To Do?

Teen Dating… What’s a Parent To Do?

A couple weeks ago I was in Panera, grabbing a bite of lunch while I waited for an appointment… well I shouldn’t really say lunch… it was about 10:30am so we’ll call it second breakfast. I ran into a friend who graciously turned her “to go” order into a “lunch with Jhenna” order… score!

We chatted and randomly made our way around to teen dating (we both have teen boys and she’s got a couple girls who will be teens before she blinks!). We talked dating, courting, hanging out with friends and special someones as well as what our roles should be as parents. We eagerly pointed out the differences in peer pressure in public school environments versus homeschool in between bites of a pasta broth bowl and breakfast scramble/wrap/frittata sort of thing… wait, maybe she had oatmeal… I can’t quite remember as I inhaled an Asian chicken salad and pasta that made my tummy do the happy dance.

She told me about a friend’s daughter who didn’t date at all through high school. This young lady went off to college and shared regret with her mother in regards to dating. She wished she had been encouraged to date/court in high school while she was living at home in the supportive atmosphere of her family. Tackling the whens, hows, and whys of dating or courting in college made her head swim and she would have loved to have the readily available advice of her parents standing close by as she navigated that world. Her college friends were impulsive and punch drunk on their new freedoms of independent living, proving little help in the scene of “responsible dating/courting.” Calling her mother just wasn’t the same as sitting down to a cup of coffee to talk boys!

Hold on… let’s discuss something… COURTING. Does that word bother you? Does it make you think of outdated ways in a modern world? Does it invite sarcastic jokes or jabs at families like the Duggars? OK then, forget it… don’t use that word… It certainly has a different mindset attached to it but there’s no reason people can’t attach the wholesome attitudes and goals of courting to the word “dating.” Dating certainly shouldn’t mean hooking up for pre-marital make-out sessions or sex. We should be teaching  our kids the great rewards in saving physical intimacy for marriage. We should be teaching them that dating certainly means you are getting to know someone with the intention of finding out if you are compatible. Dating is striving to give sacrificially of your time, efforts, and talents…. Building a relationship with your boyfriend/girlfriend based on communication, mutual interests (and respect for differences), and a striving to base your relationship on the Gospel of Christ. In short dating is the process of finding a spouse. Yes, your child will likely date several people before they find one suitable to marry and that’s perfectly ok!

My friend and I both agreed that we had more thinking and talking to do with our husbands about this whole “teens dating thing” and I left that lunch excited to take a fresh look at my role as a mother in my son’s life of dating! Watch out son, here comes mom with some wonderful news! At this point picture my quite introverted son cowering in the corner of his bedroom terrified that I am making an appointment for him to get fitted for a prom tuxedo!

My husband and I have been swimming along happily in our world with one teenager and one “tween” for several years now. With Gunner’s twelfth birthday a couple weeks ago I suddenly realized we are dangerously close to having TWO teenagers in the house in one short year.  Then I remembered that I kinda like this whole “teenager in the house thing” and peeled myself off the ceiling.

I’m no stranger to “dating” and loved having the attention of boyfriends starting in grade school. My mom passed away suddenly when I was nine years old so it was just my dad and extended family to try to steer me in the right direction. Try as they might, there was no steering me in any direction… I just did what I wanted to do. Junior high brought its dances, real dates at movies and parties, and the convergence of boys and girls from four elementary schools in our town! My dad found great comedy in the revolving door of boyfriends I had and his only advice to me was, “Remember, a boy with an earing is either gay or a pirate.” Ummmm…. Ok, thanks dad.

I remember one day when I was sixteen… it was my dad’s first and only attempt to have a serious conversation about dating and sex. I had been dating the same boy for about six months (a record for me) and he was totally a pirate. We were driving across town and my dad said, “So things are going good with you and Dusty right? You haven’t you know… because you shouldn’t, you know… but you haven’t, right?” Somewhat amused I answered, “No dad, don’t worry, I haven’t.” We drove on in silence to our destination and that was all that was ever said on the matter. I dated this same boy all through high school and accepted his proposal of marriage on the day of our high school graduation.

My dad and I had a good relationship through high school and although I wouldn’t say I felt comfortable talking to him about anything and everything I did feel secure in being able to share some of my boyfriend frustrations with him after bad dates, forgotten anniversaries (who would dare forget the month by month anniversary of our first time holding hands… how dare he!) and jealousy over other girls talking to MY boyfriend. He would sometimes side with me and other times point out how ridiculous I was being. Regardless, I knew I had someone waiting up for me when I was due to come home, someone to answer to when I made bad decisions, and someone to talk to about these bewildering boys. I had an older brother at home who gave my boyfriends the third degree when I was picked up for a date.

Plain and simple, I had a network of support from people who loved me deeply and wanted me to be safe, loved, and happy. They carried wisdom and maturity with their words and actions far beyond what was being fed to me by my friends.

I didn’t marry that high school sweetheart but I was married at eighteen, pregnant at nineteen and my husband (Kevin) and I welcomed our first son shortly after my twentieth birthday. Fast forward seventeen years and we find ourselves with a twelve year old and seventeen year old. Both homeschooled for the past seven years and both pretty darn decent kids if ya ask me.

For years upon years I have talked to my sons about the pitfalls of dating without marriage in mind while my husband schooled them on the million and one reasons you don’t want anything to do with women until you’re in your thirties… or older. I remember many of the bad decisions I made with the vast freedoms given to me in my teenage years and I just didn’t want my sons to find themselves in these same situations with the same mindset as me. I wanted their thinking to be more God focused and their attitude and actions to shift accordingly. The problem is… I can’t make my sons Christians. I can talk to them about God, God honoring relationships, my own mistakes, and give advice but I can’t make them believe or follow any of it.

We’ve never had a “no dating before adulthood” rule in our house but both of my sons will readily admit that they don’t want to date right now because they aren’t looking for a wife. In some ways that makes me very proud of them and in other ways it makes me quite sad. Let’ say they aren’t ready to look for a wife until they are 25… where does that leave them? Most likely out living on their own… away from me and their father. We can’t readily see the excitement in their eyes as they prepare for a date or wipe the tears as they break up with the “love of their life”… we just won’t be there as we would have been if they were still at home. Sure, they might call us but that requires them to reach out to us and sometimes that’s just plain hard.

I can read both my kids like a book… they wear their emotions on their sleeves for the most part and both have actions that speak WAY LOUDER than words ever will. This is why it’s not the worst thing (and may even be a REALLY good thing!) for teenagers to start dipping their toes in the world of the opposite sex while they are still home. I say this with a couple very important stipulations… Rather than the focus only be on having fun I would hope my sons spend time with a lady they are interested in with the core purpose of getting to know her better and glorifying God in their time together. To help guard against very real temptations that are part of all of our sin nature I would also want group excursions with several couples to public places to be the norm. Besides, this helps take the stress out of a lot of situations!

I am encouraging my older son to start thinking about and taking notice of the attributes which point to a Christian woman. What does a Christian woman think? What does she act like? What are her intentions? God does not want us to be unequally yoked (2 Corinthians) in marriage and though I’m not anticipating my son be married at eighteen I don’t expect him to jump into relationships frivolously without careful thought and consideration. I honestly think he’s at a point where he’s still trying to figure out his own salvation which is of the utmost importance.

Perhaps though, just perhaps he hasn’t considered how much a Christian woman can be a help mate on that road… At seventeen years old he is starting to reach adulthood. He works, he goes to school, and he helps his family. My son is learning what it means to be a man. He sees his father’s successes and failures as the leader of our home and I hope beyond all things of this earth that it is all soaking in. So yes, it is time to encourage my son to start looking at the possibilities of getting to know young ladies with similar intentions and focus. To be here when he walks through the door after spending time with a group of like minded folks and ask him, “How did it go?”… not accepting “Fine” as an answer. To be here when he walks through the door with slumped shoulders, head down, and a tear threatening to break loose from his big brown eyes because a relationship “just didn’t work out” and simply give him a hug. To remind him to open doors, pull out chairs, and compliment her before he heads out to meet up with a few couples and his special lady friend. To remind him how dangerous perceptions can be and how even those things that “aren’t that big of a deal” can quickly turn into a MONSTROUS DEAL! To remind him that conversation takes place face to face, not over a cell phone and observe him to see if he remembers this.  For his father and I to be here as an example of a Godly, mature relationship between two people that put God first with each other next all the while encouraging him to discuss frustrations, celebrations, and questions as he sets out in this new world of relationship. I will continue to talk to my sons about desires that we all have and how those are best fulfilled in a marital relationship

Do I give this same advice to my twelve year old? No… he is nowhere near adulthood and possible marriage. Will I give it when he is 13…14…16… no.  We will talk about it but we will not encourage that type of relationship until he is of the age and maturity level to be able to contemplate marriage, family, and providing for himself and possibly another.

If your kids go to public school I am going to tell you right now that you will be in the minority with your “teen dating is ok but they need to be older teens before they date” mindset. Your kids may pull the “but everyone has a boyfriend/girlfriend” or they may never even tell you that they want or have a boyfriend/girlfriend. This is where it pays to be involved and proactive. Yes, look at who they are texting and what they are saying. Yes, have access to their email and social media and check the accounts often! Be active in their school and just plain be around when they are hanging out with friends. I’ve learned I’m often welcomed into a room full of my sons and their friends when I’m holding a pan of brownies or freshly baked bread… yes, I use baked goods to just “be around” and I am not ashamed.

With all that being said I do have some tips for Christian teens who have their parents blessing to start dating…

  1. Keep God first and foremost in all you do, say, and think. God comes before girls, boys, and everything else.
  2. You don’t have to date until you are ready/ it’s ok to date when you are ready
  3. Honor your parents… come on now, it’s a commandment! Let them be your guiding light in this process… they’ve got some wisdom in this arena!
  4. Be mature in your relationships. Don’t play the hard to get or flirty games. Be genuine in your speech, actions, intentions, and thoughts.
  5. Look for someone who shares some interests with you but also celebrate differences and uniqueness.
  6. Don’t be creepy stalker guy/girl. It is incredibly disrespectful and just plain… well, creepy. If you are man enough/woman enough to start dating you can be man/woman enough to open your mouth and introduce yourself. It’s not THAT hard… say it with me, “Hi, my name is Tom. Would you like to join my friends and I for some mini-golf this Saturday? I believe you know Sarah and Jenny from school and they will be there.” Except, don’t say Tom if your name isn’t Tom because that’s just weird to say someone else’s name.
  7. Lighten up! I know, I just told you like three steps ago to be mature but you also need to remember it’s ok to enjoy another’s company and have fun with them! No one wants to marry a boring Bob! Remember the basics of manners, accountability, and respect and you’ll do just fine starting out in this dating world.
  8. Remember everyone is unique with individual backgrounds, experiences, fears, strengths, and weaknesses. No one is a carbon copy of another and God made it that way for a reason! We are to be a compliment to our spouse. Where one is strong the other may be weaker and vice versa. Two become one and the goal is to glorify God in all things, including dating and marriage.
  9. Communicate! Not just with friends or your diary but communicate with your boyfriend/girlfriend, your parents, the parents of your date (wonderful opportunity to get to know his/her family!) and
  10. Before you ever start dating make a list of the things you are looking for in a spouse. Try writing a letter to your “future spouse” before you ever meet him/her. What would you want to tell them? Remember we are all a work in progress and no one is perfect but at least you have an idea of what you are looking for before wading in. Make another list of qualities and attributes that you would bring to a relationship… remember it takes two to tango!

Ooh, this was fun! Sorry for the length, it was just really fun to write! I’m printing this out and will ask my seventeen year old son to take a look and tell me what he thinks… there may just be an update!

Fridays on the Farm, Rollercoaster Days and Nights, Strike Is Contemplated

It was the best of times…. Wait, no… it was the worst of times… well it wasn’t really the “worst”… Hmmmm let’s just say it was quite the rollercoaster week for me on the farm.

Tuning in for the first time? I am Fuzzy Bear, the lead livestock guardian dog on The Shepherd Hobby Farm and responsible for your weekly update as far as “happenings” on the farm.

First, there was an incredibly windy day… like “Dorothy, there’s no place like home Kansas tornado” windy. I was happily enjoying my morning snow goose (farmer lady gives Nala and I a snow goose every morning as our after breakfast snack (don’t worry, it’s already been shot by hunters and frozen for a couple weeks so it’s completely safe for me to relish) in the middle of the lane which leads up to the barn. It’s my favorite place to lay so I can keep track of all the critters without much effort. So far, this was a stellar day!

As I munched away on my goose the wind picked up and caught the wing of said goose. Before I knew what was happening the goose had come alive and was flying straight at the horses. Of course they freaked out… I can’t say I blame them. If I had a half eaten goose flying at me I might decide to bolt as well.

Pepsi whirled around and straight into the side of Mercedez. That really ticked her off and she reared as the goose gained it’s ground directly towards them. Several of the cats had caught sight of the flying goose and thought it looked like great fun so they gave chase. I stood there and just watched the complete and utter pandemonium break loose as now the horses thought the cats were joining in on the attack.  A goose… that they might be able to fend off but a herd of cats… there’s no way these thousand plus beasts could hold their own and both horses turned tail and sprinted into the barn.

Unfortunately farmer lady had just fed the lamb and baby goat in the barn so they were out exploring and were directly in the middle of the horses’ area. As the horses darted into the barn they were shocked to find two menacing critters squaring off with them.

The world stood still as the wind settled and my goose fell to the ground. Seven cats pounced and I knew there would be no getting into the horse paddock to get it (I learned last week I am too big to safely try to duck under that stupid electric fence…who’s idea was it to plug that thing back in? Sheesh!)

Soooooo… that was kinda a cruddy day.  I found some sticky briars to roll in the next day, encouraging farmer lady to give me a thorough brushing. That was a great day.

Middle of the week farmer lady told me she’s be leaving the babies (two goat kids and one lamb) out to run during  the day and it was my job to watch them. Seriously? When did I become her personal babysitter? I’m not paid nearly enough. I followed as they ran all over, jumped on things in the barn, darted in and out of the horse paddock (oddly enough the horses had decided these babies weren’t as menacing as originally thought), and FINALLY settled in for naps in the fluffy soft hay. Finally! You know the rule… when the babies sleep, mama sleeps. That day I would be mama because I needed a nap!

Naps are good… that was a good day.

Then there was tonight… horses were up to something, I could feel it. I could hear them making their horsey noises, chatting in that language I haven’t quite mastered yet. As soon as I entered the barn, silence. I left… and heard them pick up where they left off. I trotted back in and once again, immediate silence.

I walked back out but stayed close to peek around the corner. I watched as Pepsi grabbed at the stall gate with his teeth and started to yank. Mercedez encouraged him in between mouthfuls of delicious hay. He yanked and kicked… kicked and yanked. I jumped into the barn and gave a loud bark! I then proceeded to inform them both that farmer lady put me in charge and they would both be in big trouble if they continued their shenanigans.

They ignored me and broke through the gate… Uh oh. They flipped the lid off the chick brooder and sniffed some thoroughly terrified chicks. Then they continued out and into the garden. Ooooooh they were gonna be in trouble! I’m telling farmer lady!

Sprinting back to the house I passed some cats who agreed that the horses were gonna be in so much trouble! I couldn’t wait to hear the lecture those stupid horses were going to get.  I barked at the door. I barked and barked and barked. I heard farmer lady tell her sons, “Hey guys, go open the door, I think Fuzzy wants to come in.” Gunner opened the door and I barked but didn’t come in. I paced a few steps toward the barn, hoping he would get the hint. He did not. I know I’m no Lassie but come on… this kid was no Timmy either. I came toward him, barked and took a few more steps toward the barn. Gunner simply shut the door and I heard him tell farmer lady, “I guess she didn’t want to come in.”

I had no choice but to stay with the foolish horses as they nibbled yummy snippits of grass just starting to make their way up from the wintry ground. Both horses seemed absolutely content so I settled down for a little nap. Just as I dozed off I heard footsteps coming up from the house. Farmer lady was heading up to give the babies their night bottles.

Immediately, farmer lady noticed the broken open gate and missing horses. She called for them, “Mercedez… Pepsi… come here babies!” Babies? Are you kidding me? You know what those crazy horses did? They walked right back into the barn as if they were well trained dogs. She gave each a good neck rub and fixed the gate as they looked on intently, still chewing mouthfuls of grass. Farmer lady actually whistled while she worked… happily whistled. What…was… happening…here? Where was the lecture? Where was the “bad horses, very bad horses” rant? I think we know who farmer lady’s favorites are now don’t we?!?!

I’m contemplating going on strike… we will see.


It’s the next morning and I’ve forgiven farmer lady for playing favorites… currently munching on the best goose ever. Good day.


Just a tease…

So many of you know that I am ALMOST finished with my book and I’ll be throwing little sections of it at you all to see what ya think 🙂


Here’s a little tidbit from the “family” section of Faith, Family and Farming” 🙂

Once upon a time in a land far, far away there lived a little princess…

It was the cold month of December in the year 1978. In a small southern village in the land of Wisconsin, a little girl was born with the biggest brown eyes and fullest head of black hair you had ever seen.

Ummmm… honesty right? Well, it was a land far, far away… I mean seriously, how many people have ever REALLY been to Wisconsin? I was raised in this magnificent state surrounded by cows, cheese, and beer. I don’t mean to perpetuate stereotypes but really folks, there are A LOT of cows, cheeses, and beers in Wisconsin. We have entire celebrations devoted to cheese (Cheese Days in Monroe… it’s world famous, Google it). Our high school mascot is a mouse and we are the Cheesemakers! Think there’s no football fight song to go with that one? You are mistaken my friend…

We are the cheese, the mighty mighty cheese, say hey…hey…hey…hey.

Stand up,

Be proud,

Say your name,

Out loud


Heard of Limburger cheese? Yup, Monroe is the only town in the world that makes it! Despite popular belief happy cows truly come from Wisconsin. This is an intense battle that rages in our home to this day as our oldest son was born in the state…of…GULP… California!

OK, I digress… back to me… I did have tons of black hair and big brown eyes, like freakishly big brown eyes. My dad nicknamed me Bugsy (he says the eyes had nothing to do with it but I’m just not sure I believe him) and I had a beautiful mother as well as an older brother to complete our standard American family of four.

As is typical with the modern standard American family, my parents divorced when I was very young and my brother and I lived with our mother in Madison, Wisconsin’s state capital. My mom often worked two or three jobs and I remember many nights of my me and my brother rushing through our homework at the local Duds and Suds Laundry so we could race around pushing each other in the laundry baskets on wheels while my mother worked there. Her main employment was that of a beautician and it was always fun to see what new hairstyle or color she would have after school. She and I shared a room in our two bedroom duplex. My brother was always a stickler for neat and tidy and his room was always immaculate. My mom and I saw merit in our “to do” piles and…well…let’s just be honest… clutter.

We shared a bed in our room and I loved snuggling with her each and every night. She had boxes and boxes of stuff piled around the bedroom and one of my favorite pastimes was building intricate tunnels to get to our bed or the closet. I’d stack everything just so and proudly pull my mom in to see our new route to bed that night. I can’t remember what her reactions were so we’ll just say she was totally impressed with my ingenuity. I like to think I’m lovingly holding on to a piece of my mother as I look around my office today with its various stacks of “to do” piles. Ooh and the kitchen, yup, “to do” piles in there too. Oh yes, and my bedroom! Not quite tunnel worthy yet but I may get there by the year’s end if my husband refuses to pick up after me. The craft room… yup there’s my “to do” piles there too… ok let’s just stop now. I think you all get the point… I am my mother’s daughter.


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