Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Our 5th Wedding Anniversary and our unusual present to each other

I have a lot to tell you. And I have a lot on my mind. Joel and I just celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary last Friday. Our sweet friends basically begged us to let them watch our kids so that we could go out. It was lovely and we had a really nice dinner at Jake's in Ossipee where we sat and talked much longer than usual. My man rocks and I love spending time with him. I loved looking over a few photos and shared them on facebook.

I need a lot of time with Joel, and that hasn't been happening a whole lot lately because of work. It's just one of those personality traits or something. It just so happens that the things we love to do together tend more towards farming. Not the shoveling poop and cleaning a stall type - but the planned rotational grazing, chicken tractor, a lot less work style since this isn't a full time thing. So we have enjoyed a few new ventures recently and since I like the work in and of itself, I'll also be okay doing it by myself when he is gone. But it will be really nice to do it all with him when he is here. We like productive fun.

Here is a little history:

I have family in Minesota and I LOVE it out there and always thought I would like the life of a farmer. I love the busy barn but how it still seemed peaceful, organized, and routine. And I loved the home grown aspects, the life in everything, and the hard work. When we first got married, I asked Joel if we could ever live on a farm, or sign up for a summer at a farm, or travel over seas and work on a farm for a summer... his definite answer was no. I lamented that a deep hunger of mine would never be met, but my man was so much better than farm life, and farm life wasn't meant to be.

And then over the course of health issues that were healed by whole foods, we started learning more, and trying to make whole foods, raw milk etc fit into our lifestyle. Slowly we got more convinced in a new way of eating and started taking a stab at gardening, finding local bulk sources for food ingredients, and making nearly everything from scratch.

And each step got us closer to the things I loved about farm life. Not the tractors - the life. Like the animals, plants, and cooperation from different farmers. And Joel surprised me all the time when I would tell him about something I just read up on and he would easily say "let's do it." He can be a very stubborn and reasonable guy. That is good because he has saved us from some things that we shouldn't have done (like get a goat) - but he thankfully has seen worth in fresh eggs, chicken, gardens, and cows.

 And one afternoon after working around the yard - Joel declared that this is what he loved. The work around the homestead. My man's a farmer after all.

And then here is the really fun part:
We got our cows home. Yea suh. Two. A beautiful brown Jersey/Mini Jersey Heifer named Buttercup and a handsome Dexter Bull named Norway. They are buddies and from the same family farm. They were so happy to walk off the trailer and see green grass two Saturday's ago and I loved them.

Happy for the grass. We'll be letting it grow longer next year and fill in the chicken tractor spots.

And then this is embarrassing, but honest: Two days later, I was ready to ship the bull off. Yeah. I'm so bad. Joel, on the other hand, was not ready. And despite the bulls bellowing and showing off, Joel wanted to stick it out.

Norway, the bull

You see. I really just wanted a cow. She would fit perfectly. But she would be lonely, and her buddy was offered as well and he'll keep things going year after year here, if you know what I mean... We had the rotational grazing all planned out. I tried to think of everything. We got fencing, a shelter, waterer, mineral block, and fresh grass. I'd done reading to prepare, I'd learned to milk a cow, I'd talked to our milk lady in the past... They were well behaved and friendly young cattle. They were already trained on electric fence and are year round outdoor animals. We were even purchasing their electric netting with them - so it was exactly what they used. Winter will be easy enough with a submersible water heater and them staying in one paddock. So what did I forget?

This: That I never lived on a farm. And more specifically, I never listened to mooing or bellowing at random times of the day. And even more, I never listened to a bull bellow with all that was in him for the cows next door that he couldn't get to. Oh Norway, he was in love. But his voice grates me like my skin would fall off.

So I was all, "I only wanted a cow, but she would be lonely, and he'll give us calves every year, but I only wanted a cow... and he is noisy, and... but it's smart to keep him if we can and he's generally nice, small, dehorned... but" And Joel was, "but he just got here and he might get used to seeing cows he can't get to. And he'll probably be fine and a good thing to keep around". Plus - Joel really likes Norway. In reality, Norway has bellowed, in total, less than some normal dogs bark - and we've had quite a few peaceful and content days since.

So, the bull stays. And Joel was right. Norway is getting used to everything. We have to put cinder blocks to help hold down his shelter because he tries to move it, and I have to keep the waterer all the way full so that he doesn't push it through the fence. We are learning how much they each need to eat and how fast they eat each section of grass.

What I like the most about all this - is that Joel wants the homestead life maybe even more than I do now. He's more willing to do the hard stuff and wants to stick the hard stuff out. He's a determined type. It's always nice to fully enjoy something together instead of "this is your hobby, and this is mine".

So, in January, when I said that I wanted a dairy cow for our 5th anniversary present, he liked the idea, but realistically, we agreed it would happen in 2014. We had little presents all picked out to commemorate the 5th (wood) anniversary, and then my friend (the one who's cow I milked) called to tell me about something I needed to take a look at on craigslist. She said that a family was selling a Mini Jersey that looked like exactly what I had told her I wanted. And the family raised the animals the way I described I wanted to do it too. So I looked - and emailed. And got excited because it was a doable price for us this year after all!

We laughed about the irony, planned out how to get them and pay for them, and got our 5th anniversary presents. When we calculated costs and did our budget - it was in there and it was half of what we could have payed for the set up and animals we were getting if we waited for next year. The feed for the winter wouldn't even make up the difference. To say they are exactly the animals I was looking for, is an understatement.

So our unique 5th year anniversary present has a little irony behind it for us. I'm so glad my husband started liking homesteading more and more over the years. And I'm thankful that we each have our strong points in this venture. We enjoy this homesteading life together.

We attribute all the perfect timing, perfect situations, and perfect time in life to God, who, I'm sure, has quite a few lessons to teach us through these new ventures - just like he has in the past.

Farm life brings on it's own set of anxieties. But I've been trying to think on excellent things and to present it all to God with thanksgiving for what he has done for us. 

Philippians 4:6-7
"4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."

And if your curious about the benefits of the cows, here are a few:
  • They are mini and only require 1/4 - 1/2 acre each. They eat 1/3 of what the bigger breads eat and do less damage to the wet ground because they are smaller.
  • They were raised grass fed and are doing great. Dexters are great grass fed cattle, and mini jerseys can be too. (little to no grain bill) Not as practical for large scale farmers, but doable for homesteaders.
  • They are also a more manageable size for me - I'm not so keen on the big cows by myself, although I love Winnie who I'll gladly milk again.
  • Cows v. Goats. Cows can give me cream for butter (a major cost savings) and cows stay in a fence 100 times better than a goat (maybe an exaggeration, but I doubt it). I would also prefer eating beef than goat.
  • mowing our lawn, fertilizing, and turning our grass into saved money.
  • hard work - yes. That is a good thing.
  • getting to know the cattle before we have to milk. we think buttercup is due to calf in March, but I'm really glad for this time to get our feet under us before then.
  • I can possibly get 7 times the amount of milk I purchase a week now - so I can make butter, cheese, yogurt etc.
  • pay a little less than what I pay for my milk in feed each week (yes, I'll be getting 7 times as much milk for the same feed cost, but yes, there is a lot more work involved in getting that milk)
  • Milk is in the back yard
  • the calf would produce enough meat or us for a couple years. or we could sell it. That meat costs us the price of grass (free), hay, and our time.
  • We can see how it goes. The hansom bull is also potential meat... So there is no loss. Or we could always relocate him... but I'm optimistic now.
  • We call it an anniversary present because of the timing, but we would have done it someday anyway. It is really an investment worth taking or us since it helps the food budget out in the future.
  • And we like them. That's important too.


  1. LOVE this! Awesome! And I would soooo totally want to do the exact same thing if it was for all of our dairy allergies!! UGH! Wish there was a way to get rid of THOSE!

  2. Awe thanks. Would it be worth it for you to raise small grass feed cattle for beef? :-( milk allergies must be the worst.




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