Here at the Funny Farm we try to be intentional with our time. We do A LOT of work. But we also enjoy A LOT of fun. I think that’s why are kids are such cheerful workers. They realize we all do it together and then we all have fun together. We also believe in teaching life skills to all the kids. And we start ’em out young, lol! While they are working on a project that will result in hours of fun family time, it hardly seems like work or learning, but it is! Measure once, cut twice!
The other day, Jeremie and Tommy went over to help a neighbor install a dishwasher. While they were there, they met a nice gentleman by the name of Tommy F. Mr F. took a liking to the other Tommy and dropped by out the blue and gifted him a bow for hunting. He was so considerate in taking Jeremie aside to ask privately if this was ok, before revealing this gift to anyone else. What a special thing to do! What a way to encourage a young man! To tell him that he wanted to gift him this bow because Tommy was a nice, kind, smart, respectful, boy who was interested and engaged in life. So the day after that, Mr. F. drops by with a cooler full of catfish! We have never processed catfish, so he had to show us how. He kept exclaiming, “Oh! All these babies and all these knives!” It was really funny because all the kids from Benjamin on up have sharp Victronix knives because they all help process the animals around here. Mr. F. is missing three of his fingers because he sister accidentally dropped a sharp ax on them when he was only 5! So I’d say his fear and caution around knives and sharp things is well warranted. But anyway, all the fish got processed and fried up for dinner. I’ve always declined to eat fish, but I have been inconsistent in my distaste, because I quite enjoy sushi, as pointed out to me by Jeremie. “You won’t eat fried fish, but you’ll eat raw fish?!” Um, yeah, I guess that about sums it up.
Found a peanut, found a peanut, found a peanut just now. I’ve never seen a peanut plant. I knew they grew underground, but that was the extent of my peanut knowledge. Now we have seen first hand how they grow, when and how to harvest, what a healthy plant looks like, how more peanuts grow from the little suckers that creep along the ground. It was great to visit with friends, and enjoy time in their garden on a cool morning. We dug and dug and dug. Only a handful of peanuts grew on each vine. They tell us more would have grown if the ground had not been mounded up so high. I’m glad to share in the knowledge of their experience. After we dug an entire row, we had a rubbermaid full of peanuts. Jeremie is especially excited about this harvest because he is thinking he will be able to tolerate these heirloom legumes. Peanut butter from the store bothers him, but there is so much garbage put on conventional plants, it may not be the actual peanut to which he is allergic. It could be the sprout inhibitors, the pesticides or preservatives that make him feel ill. After we dry these nuts, we will better be able to tell if he can tolerate them or not. Homemade peanut butter! We also shared in the harvest of our friend’s blue corn. Isn’t it beautiful?! I’m told it makes excellent corn meal for breads, muffins, waffles and more. We enjoyed this field trip on our second day of “school”, realizing that learning happens all the time and anywhere, not just around the table or at a desk!
It is a lot of work, trailing littles behind you while you toil away at a task. They ask a lot of questions. They break a lot of things. They sometimes whine about the heat or the bugs. But these boys have proven that they have learned the skills Daddy has been teaching them all summer long. Fencing. Always needing to be moved. Always a hot job. But so necessary for the health of the herd. Rotational grazing helps keep parasites down in the animals. And gives the grass a chance to grow back before being chewed off repeatedly. Jimmy and Benja can work together to set up a grazing paddock for the cows by themselves. Some areas of the pasture are more wooded, so they need more help and direction. But here in the yard, by the pond it is wide open. So they stepped in the posts, ran the electric and got the cows to new, fresh grass. Jeremie may be well on the way to working himself out of a job!
A new addition to our jungle gym/obstacle course/ ninja warrior training grounds has been made. Susie, Charlotte, Benjamin, James and Tommy worked together to get all these pieces of rope tied together and hung between two towers. They watched a youtube video, learning how to tie the knots, then got to work. You can learn anything from youtube!
Whew! We were totally running out of our homemade personal care toiletries. So this weekend the girls and I put together some teamwork in the kitchen and whipped up soap, toothpaste, lip balm and deodorant. We love this soap recipe! It produces a nice hard bar and sometimes we tweak the recipe to use chamomile tea or aloe juice instead of the water. And of course you can add any essential oil that you like.
30 oz. coconut oil
20 oz shortening
14 oz olive oil
24.3 oz water
10.3 oz lye
Next we tried a new deodorant recipe. We’ve been challenged to find one that works, smells great, lasts in the heat, and uses oils I already have on hand. We are pretty pleased with this recipe, but it’s surprising that it doesn’t have any coconut oil in it. I’m hoping the absence of CO will make it more stable in the heat. I’ve made toothpaste in the past, but have been lazy and have bought Nature’s gate more recently. But then I discovered there are sulfates in Nature’s gate. So even though there is no fluoride, I still don’t feel good about using it on the kids daily. This is a great recipe for squeezable toothpaste, which solves the problem of “where did you put the Popsicle stick!?” When I make toothpaste in a jar, we used a Popsicle stick to apply it to the brushes. And it was always getting lost or thrown away. This looks a little funky in color, but tastes great and feels great on your teeth!
5T calcium powder
4T coconut oil
1T arrowroot/ baking powder
2 T bentonite clay
30 drops EO ( I used clove and peppermint)Oh baby, this lip balm is slick!! Almost like lip gloss but not sticky at all. It has a little olive oil for added shine and essential oils for a little minty ( or orange) taste. Once my oils and butters are out, it’s just as easy to mix up a batch of all this stuff all at once. The girls learned how to make a lot of products that they hadn’t known how to before and now our bathrooms are stocked up!
We have always encouraged the young ladies in our home to embrace their high calling of motherhood. There is no more noble thing, than raising up children. Nothing that will have more eternal effects. But we also recognize the fact that God has gifted them with time in their life to pursue other interests. This time, when they do not have a family to care for, is invaluable and should be invested wisely. They have many different areas of interest: photography, baking, sewing, animal training, and more. Lately, they have had the opportunity to invest their time into something lucrative. Katie is gifted (or not, ha!) with an engineering mind. She’s a quick thinker and you rarely have to explain things twice to her. She has taken on an engineering project for her dad that will have quite a sweet payout at the end. She is learning to manage her time more wisely, because household duties and school come before her “work”. She has proved to be a huge blessing to Jeremie, enabling him to accept more work because he knows she’s got his back. And Mia has recently accompanied Jeremie on a trip to Chicago, acting as his personal photographer. He needs pictures taken of all the electrical wiring and things (I don’t even know what) and having Mia along to snap photos cut his time on the job in half. Being an independent contractor means he can bill her hours combined with his, and she walks away with a hefty profit as well. We are constantly searching for creative ways to fill our young adults’ minds and time with productive activity and lately this has fit the bill. We never want them to feel like they are on a one-way road to nowhere. We also want to cultivate a love for God’s calling for their life in them. A delicate balance, indeed.
Remember my favorite gift last Christmas? The meat hook? I have this thing… I want to know how to cut up an animal into usable meat. Maybe it’s because I have to feed so many people. Maybe it’s because we all like to eat meat so much. Maybe it’s just another feather in my homesteading hat. But for whatever reason, I am intent on learning more about meat, grass-fed, organic, hormone free, healthy meat. How to produce it. How to process it. How to sell it. We are fortunate to have a meat processor within minutes of us, who is USDA certified. Meaning we can sell our meat, that has been processed there, directly to consumers. There are only 12 in the entire state. And this processor is familiar with and a believer in holistic farm/animal management. Meaning one pays attention not only to animal production, but also to soil health, water management, animal health, basically all the components of a healthy farm. In the middle of the country, in the middle of hundreds of conventional farms, what an absolute jewel our processor is. We attended a class put on by the extension office of University of Tennessee, hosted by our local processor. We learned all about marketing beef direct to the consumer via farmers markets, or directly off the farm. We learned all about how much meat you will actually see from an animal. We learned about what kinds of cuts are available, where they come from and how best to cook them. We learned all this AFTER a fabulous meal provided by the host. Imagine.. a prime rib from a local grass fed Piedmontese steer, cold smoked, then cooked to a perfect shade of pink, drizzled with its own juice, so tender it cut with a plastic fork. That is what was set before us. And bacon? There was a bowl of bacon next to the salad, real bacon folks, about 7 inches high.Must have taken at least 10 pounds of bacon to fill that bowl. After that delicious meal, you can bet we were all eager to hear everything they taught us about raising such a product ourselves. A lot of the class was taught via slides on an overhead projector. But then we were able to go into the cutting room and see an actual steer so we could see exactly where the cuts were coming from. See exactly how much fat you want to leave on the carcass. See exactly how it’s done. We were not born farmers. We fail more often than not. But we are learning. And taking advantage of every opportunity we can to learn and share stories with others that know more than we do.
Well, they didn’t really get to build a droid like R2D2. But the boys did have a great time programming lego robots. Tommy has joined a competitive robotics team and both he and Jimmy are spending some time each month learning about programming and working together as a team. Tommy is a natural at programming and Jimmy astounds us with his ability to think and problem solve in 3D. They spent a couple hours at the library set up with laptops, programs, legos, robots. What more could a boy ask for?!
I don’t know if I’m creative enough to write about this event yet again and make it interesting. However, this time around Mia and her team won 5th out of over 30 teams competing from across the state. They are learning so much. Jeremie is considering buying a bull and he went to the girls for their opinion about the bull’s body confirmation and build.
There was also a cattle auction at the agribition. Heifers were going for anywhere between $2,500-$8,000. Why the huge discrepancy? Body confirmation. Breeders will take embryos from that highly desirable cow and implant them into other cows to improve the genetics of their herd.
There was also a wood carver there. He spent over an hour talking to Jeremie and Jimmy, giving them tips on carving and sharing stories. His pieces were amazing and sold for over $200. Jeremie saw a man buy 9 of the carved figures. Made the wood carver’s day! He sent Jimmy home with an autographed piece of roughly carved wood in the shape of a gnome.