Seems life here is always a roller-coaster ride. Sometimes I enjoy the the ride and others I just want a break. The past two weeks have been just that. Some days of complete joy and others absolutely gut-wrenching... the stuff that tempts one to give up.
Last week started with a wonderful surprise visit from my Mom for my birthday. I was turning 44 and quite frankly was hoping the day would skip everyone's attention. For some reason 44 sounded so much older than 43. Secretly I felt like I was still young enough for another baby at 43 if we decided to try. If time would allow, finances would ease up or things here on the farm would suddenly reach a level where if I wanted to take a back seat and focus on a new baby it could happen. For all those that know us intimately and know how risky my pregnancies are.... YES I KNOW. (Ciara...don't bark at me.. I am just talking about those secret desires.) I KNOW that we should not have any more babies. I am just rambling here about having reached an age where it suddenly occurred to me that even if I decided to try again... its too late. I dont know about most of you but I am pretty good at walking around in a state of semi-denial. I'm not really overweight... all the bills will get paid this month..... we can always have another baby. Sometimes life slaps you in the face. Suddenly I cannot deny the fact that there will be no more babies. My children are my everything. My absolute favorite time of the day is snuggling with them in the morning. Each one of the four here at home still seeks snuggle time. I love watching them grown and change but as the mother of one adult child I also know how limited these days are. I have the perspective I missed with Ashley of knowing first hand just how short this time is and how fast it flies. Time keeps on ticking no matter how busy we are or what else is going on... every missed opportunity is gone and gone forever... every snuggle missed is one less snuggle we get to enjoy.
Enough moping about my age. I had a magical birthday. Mom surprised me the night before by suddenly appearing in my driveway. Becca showed up here early early in the morning on my birthday and did the kids chores and we got to go see a great movie in town....for cheap! LOVE the kids summer series! Headed out with Mom for some brief thrift store shopping and returned home to a surprise party thrown by the kids and a meal prepared by Becca. Talk about feeling the love! To top it all off, Andy skipped evening milking and Mom watched the kids so Andy and I went out on a real date. Couldn't ask for anything more. A real "up" for the week!
It was awesome having Mom here. I enjoy her so much! We had fun at the cheese plant where she helped me "cut the cheese" one week for market and then last Friday helped me with cheese curds for market. It was awesome sharing that time with her. She took the kids swimming Saturday evening, she and I enjoyed many chats and evenings sitting outside relaxing. Mom spent two days working with the kids giving the house a much needed deep clean. I can't tell you what a difference it makes in the peace level in our home when its organized and clean. More "ups" on our roller coaster ride.
The big "Down" right now is the heat. It's taking its toll here. Pasture drying up, cows not milking much... they spend their days hanging out in the shade instead of eating. Can't blame them. Wednesday was our hottest day. It reached 106 by 10am and the humidity was so high. We moved our breeding stock pigs into the pasture across the street Tuesday night thinking the tall tall grass would offer them extra shade and the little stream would give them wallow in which to cool themselves. What we didn't think about was how stagnant the air might be with the humidity so high and no breeze. We lost most of our pigs. It was a horrific day.... Andy checked them at 8:30 am and all was well.. no one was panting... plenty of water.. all good. He started milking. Stopped at 10:30 to check them again and it was too late... some had already perished and the last few were dangerously over heated. He ran back to get water to dump on them to try and cool them quickly but by the time he got back even more were lost. We were only able to save one pig. A devastating day for us.. emotionally and financially. We love our pigs... its our responsibility to keep them healthy and happy... and we really screwed up here. All the "what if's" and "why's" . We really thought this was the best place for them... the safest place with the heat. But we got it wrong. We do have one pig that broke out of that pasture to the corn field next door. She is still running around.. we have seen her, we have tried to get her back but for now at least... she is still loose. I am hoping we get her back... but the reality of getting back a 400lb sow that is healthy, used to excercise, and enjoying her freedom... is daunting.
I toyed with the idea of not sharing this sad story with all of you.... but we have always believed in transparency and that means not only sharing our joys and heartbreaks but also our mistakes. This is one of those times.
Another sad story I have been neglecting to share is the loss of our beloved Kiss. She fell asleep under Andy's truck and Andy did not know she was there. She had never slept under a car before.... not sure why she didnt move.. the engine was running for a while before he was ready to drive off. But, she did not and we lost her. Broke our hearts, I think most of all Hannah and Andy suffered.
Earlier this month the kids and I got a mini break and went to Elgin for a dear friend's wedding. It was just two days but we really enjoyed it. We stayed at an old farm house in the Sandhills turned into a getaway. Such a beautiful setting! Here is a picture I snapped of my friend Jenny with Alex. It was taken in her pasture while we were gathering wild flowers for the wedding. This picture looks almost magical to me... I had to share it.
Thanks for letting me ramble and share our lives. Its therapeutic for me to write a bit here and there.
Summer is here! And so is our CHEESE! Our journey to farmers markets has finally arrived. WHEW!
Just the process of choosing a market felt overwhelming at first. So many choices! We are so blessed here in the Lincoln/Omaha markets with so many wonderful markets to choose from! I have been a frequent visitor/purchaser at the Lincoln markets but had no idea where to start with the Omaha ones. So, we started checking them out. Fun... all in itself! A new market was opening in Lincoln so it seemed natural to start with that market as it would be smaller and we only had a two cheeses to choose from. Also, I could bake bread.. one of my greatest loves!
So, sporting my new haircut (thanks Linda!), armed with 14 loaves of my whole wheat cinnamon roll bread off we went. I was thinking the bread would be a fun addition and I could talk to folks about healthy fats and introduce them to our cheeses. I spent the better part of a week (or two) carousing Lincoln's thrift shops for everything I thought I needed. I assembled all my goods, brought eggs, meats, cheese, and that bread. All anyone was interested in was the bread. I came home so bummed. I couldn't figure out what went wrong. Back to the drawing board! The market uploaded some pictures of my table on their FB page and boy was that helpful! Something stuck out at me when looking at my set up from that viewpoint. NOTHING! My signs were hidden, all that really stood out was the bread. No wonder that's all anyone wanted! I also realized how bland my color set up was. I thought I was being really nifty ... my whole set up matched my cheese labels... sunflower yellow table cloth with a cute little red and greed plate.. . just like my labels. Boy.. did I have a lot to learn. All this great cheese and it was hardly noticeable. Two things I did do right was to make a big white board poster with pictures of the animals and I was handing out Weston A Price brochures.
Sooo.... week 2! Lost the yellow tablecloth... used Grandma's red and white checked ones. Added another table so we had an L shape. Didn't snap any pictures though.. it was the Grand opening of the market and we were occupied talking to people and listening to the radio station blaring next to us. OK.. so singing along and goofing off a bit. Hannah came with me to this one.. I hate that I dont have a picture of her. I only baked six loaves of bread and set them to the side. Cheese more front and center in a groovy red basket and plate. We sold a bit more cheese and a few meats. Not brillant but better. Learning, learning. I spent a lot of time creating these cute little signs for Ground beef on sale, signs with colors and framing in clear plastic stands... and spent the whole evening picking them up off the ground or table! Pretty frustrating! Looking at my table that night I realized that as much as I love my Grandma's red and white tablecloths I really needed ones that fit my tables and matched each other better... bummer. As usual... my MOM saved the day! In the mail I received some gorgeous bright busy country checked tablecloths! With a matching plastic mat upon which to showcase that cheese! Woo Hoo!
So, week 3 approaches an I think I have it all figured out! (silly woman) I made these great signs to hang from the beams of my tent... got my gorgeous eye catching tablecloths.. what can go wrong?? I should learn not to ask. It was 105 degrees AND windy! My signs flew off their hooks... so I taped a few to the poles. My big picture board kept flying off it's stand and finally broke my big easel ... :-( And we needed table cloth clamps- stuff flying everywhere! It was so stinking hot... after setting up I just wanted to pass out! Very few people at the market... (can't imagine why!). But Jamie was WORKING IT!. She had her little cute self standing outside of the tent catching folks as they walked by giving them brochures on the farm. She even brought in a few folks... one guy said he was just buying those lamb chops because she was so cute! I came home so incredibly exhausted.. it's just too hot in the evenings! So... starting to think about weekend early morning markets. And.. we have more cheese coming ready.
Last weekend we went to Village Pointe market in Omaha. I couldn't believe the difference! People were there to shop! They came prepared to buy groceries! We actually sold meat and cheese! It was awesome! We had our jack cheeses and our cheddar bites (which sold out!). The heat didn't set in till the last hour and it was much more manageable. And.. no bread... as much as I love baking... it was taking up all my extra time and energy.. I was spending two days solidly baking. A week of not baking was certainly welcomed. I was able to spend a little time in my garden... I found baby cabbages in all the grass! How fun! Andy made me this awesome big wood sign for the markets that works great to catch attention and DOESNT FALL OVER!! I have taken to taping my picture board to the tent poles.. still need to work on a better plan for for that. But, we are starting to feel like pros... set up is much easier and we are learning more and more every day! Why just last weekend I learned my tent goes up much higher! Today we attended an indoor one day market at OPPD District offices in Omaha. We premiered our Raw Milk English Cheddar and our Fresh Feta. Both girls came with me and they had a blast. Quite the little sales girls they are making! I figure its a great learning experience for them... talk about real socialization!
On a non-farm note: Ashley Graduated! :-) Not that we ever had any concerns... she is so stinking smart! Nonetheless it was a wonderful thing to celebrate.
We took a day off this month to celebrate our July birthdays. Michael turned 3 and Jamie is turning 9! This is just all going by too fast. It seems like just the other day when asked how old Michael was I said 2... (actually it WAS just the other day!) Then it dawned on me.. my baby is 3. How did that happen? It seems too fast. Anyhoo.. we took a day off from the farm.. Andy milked in the morning and we went swimming all day! Such fun! Andy was smart and left his shirt on.. me.. not so much! I have quite the burn on my back and right now am often imitating the pigs scratching myself on posts and walls. Totally worth it though! We have decided to stick with morning milking... it has opened up all kinds of avenues for family fun! Andy gets more sleep too... which he desperately needed.
my hot cheese date!
Feeling thankful these days for our wonderful friends here in Nebraska. We couldn't do this without your support. Thankful for all the times friends just show up to help or are willing to be my hot cheese date and help me cut up and package cheese late at night.
I still miss my Georgia friends but is is just so great that I have developed some dear friends here. On my birthday my closest friends here surprised us by just showing up with food, cake, and weeding gloves! They went to work on my garden and uncovered so much goodness in there! Plants that were being choked out by grass and weeds were given new life! I can't even tell you how much that meant to me. And if not enough, the next night they took me out for dinner! We had big fun goofing off, walking around the Haymarket and making Facebook mischief by posting we were getting tattoos. Been too long since I have had so much fun!
Artisan Cheesemaker. Lover of all foods dairy..