Tuesday, August 14, 2012

We've MOVED...

Hi friends!  We've taken the blog over to the website, so if you're looking for the latest posts, mosey over to www.jacobsreward.com/blog and stay in the Farm Loop!  Thanks...

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The LRB, a Safe Haven and Refuge

Where can you go when the world seems to have painted a big red target on your backside?  You got it, the Little Red Barn.

One of our Barnie pals texted me this morning to ask if she could just come get a little peace and quiet in the LRB today, knowing it wasn't one of our regular get-together Saturdays.  She had spent a hard week, "vacationing" with family, and that had taken quite a toll on her.  What had been billed as a time for some siblings to get together and enjoy each others' company turned into a marathon group backbiting event.  Ouch.  This calls for some extended BARN TIME.

She showed up with her knitting projects and I left her alone with her yarn and her thoughts while I went about my morning farm chores.  When I finished, I joined her in the barn with a big cup of coffee for each of us, and took up my own stitching.  How awesome for me to have an excuse to sit and crochet while our friend, let's call her "Marilyn," poured out her painful story.

I was so humbled to see that she felt safe, and relieved to have a place to let it all hang out - to air the litany of petty incidents that had ruined her time away, and stolen all her spare thoughts even after her return.  As the hours slipped smoothly by today, we shared lots and lots of stories of our lives.  I learned lots about my friend that our previous visits had not revealed.  I got to see lines of tension melt off her face and sweet, relaxed smiles replace them.  We laughed.  I'm not sure she had laughed in a while. 

And look here - I even got to sit still long enough to get some spinning done!  "Marilyn" was shocked, and glad that her visit had given me just the excuse I needed to carve out a bit of "me" time, too.

This, I believe, begins to approach the core of agriculturally supported community.  We're here for each other.  What may have begun as a love of knitting, yarn, or fuffy critters, blooms and grows into a love for the other people similarly attracted.  We're drawn together by the stuff of the farm: the open air, the smell of fresh dirt, the doe eyes of the alpacas, the silky softness of the shorn wool, the hot coffee on a brisk day--who knows what element sums it up for each person, but we find ourselves gathered in the cozy barn every Third or Fourth Saturday, anxious to pick up where we left off last time--anxious to be known and valued a little more deeply.

And now, we see that the need for this space, this safety, this refuge, comes more than just on the appointed days.  So I want you to know, that if you find yourself in need of some quiet Barn Time, anytime, day or night, just text me. 

I'll leave the light on for you.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Autumn is in the Air

Seriously.  In my mind, it's October already and the temperatures are returning to a sub-sun-surface range.  I'm not wishing away the present, but rather, I'm up to my elbows in preparation for one of our favorite farm events, the annual "Share the Harvest" Fall Gift Market.

I hope you can be with us on Saturday, October 20, here in the front yard of the farm.  It's our third big festival with local artisans, entertainment, food, storytelling and lots more.  We've been so fortunate for the past several years to have gorgeous weather for this event - one of the first beautiful days of autumn to break the oppression of summer heat, and this allows us to begin looking forward to the brisk, exciting holiday season.

I bet if you wanted, you could bang out every bit of your Christmas shopping right here on that day.  I'm getting all the vendors lined up and will announce our line-up as soon as I can, but I promise there will be hand crafters and local producers of every stripe.  Save up your gift-giving budget and share the wealth with your hard working and talented small-business neighbors.  China doesn't need any more of our money.

Frost on the pumpkin... I know it seems ages away, but don't give up hope.  Sweater weather is not so far off...

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

New Chicks in Town

Today we added five new chooks to the Jacob's Reward flock - courtesy of our friend Mia, her son Levi, and friend Cassandra. 

 Cassandra had never been to the farm before, so she made herself at home and introduced herself to the menagerie while we installed the new girls.

It's an interesting group - very cool breeds including a Blue Andalusian, an Araucana, a Salmon Faverolle, and two black and white ones that I can't even remember.  Flashy, no?  Their names are Lupita, Annie, Elizabeth, Marilyn and Ginger, but I'm still working on which one is which.   I'll get better pictures when they settle down a little.

Little Levi was sad to leave his friends here in our care, but the City of Carrollton made it impossible for these ladies to keep living at Mia's house.  She's going to be working on getting the ordinances changed, so watch out C-town, the Chickens Are Organizing.

These new ladies are in some wacky temporary digs until we can get a proper coop set up for them.  Next time you're at the farm, come say hi!  They're really pretty!  For best results, we'll incorporate them into the larger flock a little at a time, as usual.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Hard Boiled Eggs and Decluttering Heaven

The chickens have almost shut down in this heat.  I'm finding less than half a dozen eggs per day in the usual places.  This includes the hay troughs and the few hidey-spots that I know about.  Either they really have laid off the laying, or there is a growing stash of hard boiled eggs somewhere in an obscure thicket.  Either way, eggs are getting harder and harder to come by.  Rarer than hens' teeth, as it were.  And I'm sad to report that I've lost a couple of chickens whose deaths can only be attributed to the heat.  Yes, so far the temperatures have been less extreme than last year, and I'm really grateful, but it's still tough.

The hot weather has inspired me to stay indoors more and tackle some things in the house that have been dragging down my energy, attitude, and inspiration.  Namely, the incessant and chronic disorder in my living spaces.  My husband and daughter traveled to Austin this past weekend to visit friends and see some sights, and so I took advantage of the opportunity to tackle some of the most public areas.  I got some peace and quiet, and could focus almost exclusively on each task as it came.  For the past several months, the living room and kitchen have been such a pile of unfinished projects and unmade decisions, that I hated to have anyone come in the door.  If you've come by for eggs lately and I left you standing on the porch in the heat, I apologize.  It's much better now. 

Armed with my new audio book, Unstuff Your Life - Kick the Clutter Habit and Completely Organize Your Life Forever, by Andrew Mellen, I dug in.  The title of the book makes a pretty big promise, but I've read enough of this kind of book not to get myself swept up in false hope about the prospect of a once-and-for-all fix.  I'm also an organized person, deep down, and I recognize sound organizational principles when I see them.  Mostly, I put the recording on just as some kindred-spirit-white-noise while I did what I know to do - organize useful items and pitch the trash.  I'm even pretty good at letting go of old stuff, family stuff, sentimental stuff, when I can see that keeping it around just clogs up my life.  I do get a great deal of satisfaction out of making Neatness.

And what do you know?  It's a fantastic book.  Better than any other de-cluttering book I've ever glommed on to.  Andrew holds to the same two fundamental organizing principles that I do: 1) group like items with like items, and 2) establish one home for every item so that you can always find it.  But it's in the details and the fleshed-out systems where Andrew shines.  With encouragement and good humor, his book goes through every room in a typical house (including attics, garages, basements, filing cabinets dresser drawers, and even your computer hard drive) and walks step by step through what items should live in each of these spaces.  In this way, he keeps your toes to the fire and helps you address one small pocket of chaos at a time, leaving a trail of peace and sanity in its place.  If I go back and start at the beginning with this book - chapter by chapter - I'll have a scary-wonderful house when I'm done.  But I spent the weekend just getting out from under enough junk to even begin the deep cleaning exercise.  Sort of like cleaning before the cleaning lady comes.  I totally get that.

Andrew's baking drawer.  Nice.  All his drawers look like this.
I really believe Mr. Mellen lives this way.  Some people might call him a bit over-fastidious or fussy, but they're just jealous.  Living this way, neat people save time, money, and mental anguish by being able to put their hands on things they need in an instant.  They have healthy relationships with their stuff and only keep what is really, really special (and easily housed) or useful in their lives.  They don't buy stuff out of compulsion or obsession, or a need to make themselves feel good.  They buy what they need, store it properly, and let it go when it's time.  I want to live like that.  I really do.

Now, if I can just convince my family that this is a good idea.

What spiffy organizing tips help you the most?  How neat and organized should we be, on a daily basis?

Saturday, July 28, 2012

What's Your Superpower?

Blistering.  Today, summer finally started to show its teeth with temperatures around 102, and threatening to get worse in the next few days.  But the Barnies, gathered in the LRB, fought back with our secret weapon - four flavors of ice cream.  Oh yeah... much better.

Shielded from the heat, we spent some time mulling over an idea I had originally posted on Facebook, about the bartering/time bank concept.  A friend of mine in Los Angeles is active in a Time Bank program there, and I've been very intrigued with his reports.  This idea dovetails nicely into the thought I've had for a long time, that the JRF community could do something very similar.

In a community like ours, and many others, the members each possess lots of amazing skills, interests and passions.  They also have certain weakness or needs.  The beauty of community is that these strengths and weaknesses can fit together like puzzle pieces to form some wholeness.  Sort of like the Avengers, we can band together and take advantage of all the amazing things each one of us can do.  I help you, you help our friend, our friend helps me.  It all comes back around.  We keep the resources local, cut down on the need for cash (or debt), and we live Awesome.  Sound interesting?

We have a lot more mulling and research to do, but I think we've started a very good conversation.  To help us along, I sent a sign-up sheet around the room today, having any interested Barnies sign their name, list their skills (or Superpowers, as I like to call them) no matter how unusual, and their contact information.  We'll build from this list.  If you'd like to be included, please drop me an e-mail - the more the Awesomer.  If you have any ideas about how you think this might work, please let me know.  I'll be stewing on it too.

In the meantime, we packed the LRB with an almost-record-breaking group of friends - some old-timers and some first-timers, and shared our common thread (get it?) by knitting, crocheting, and spinning together.

Denise DOMINATED our Show and Tell time with all her State Fair entries!  Wow, has this girl been busy!

Hanane's tri-loom piece, whipped out in very short order...

Annie takes a break from her stitching while Gin continues work on her very gorgeous embroidery piece.

Lisa takes notes and Hilary spins alpaca.

Suggie knits and enjoys her first time back to the LRB in some time.

Grandma Tutu, also absent too long, joins us again with a beautiful lace piece - with the right amount of stitches on the needles!

Rita dug deeeeeep into the stash to find this bright yellow roving.

Sweet Brenda was back after an extended absence.  Life has a way of pulling us away from our true loves sometimes, but just for seasons.  

Smokey navigated all the whirling spinning wheels without getting her tail caught.  We were in awe.

Greta's soft yarn.

CJ's funny stories.

Solving sock issues.

Tutu's ride comes to fetch her.  Hiya Phil!

We are an awesome band of Avengers.  I hope you'll suit up with us to find out how we can all contribute to the shallow places in each others' lives, filling them up, rounding them out, and being filled in return.

Whoa! How'd We Get Here?

This is a a big day, y'all - and it completely snuck up on me.  This is my 1000th blog post, and it's only about a week to the day from the 6th anniversary of Blog Post #1.  Now, if you scan the archives, you'll see that some years were more chatty than other years, and I think I blew off 2008 completely.  

But on these pages, we've managed to document and live through the entire history of this farm to date, beginning with the arrival of our very first sheep, the history of the Little Red Barn, the comings and goings of so many of our sweet critters, the passing through of so many people who enjoy learning about fiber and farming, the development over the years of our amazing Community, and lots, lots more.  That was a sobering, but encouraging saunter down memory lane.  Sometimes we forget how far we've come until we get a chance to pull out the dusty photos and remember.

Reminiscing is great fun, but I want to focus on the future.  As I scan through the years of posts, it's clear that what makes this blog worth your time is the deep sharing... telling the stories that bring out the common joys, struggles, and victories of all of us.  When we can join hearts through these pages and say, "hey, I know exactly how that feels"...  that's what makes our time together on the blog really meaningful.  That, and cute animal pictures.  Those are good, too.  

Remember when Ruthie was a house dog?

So these are the things you can expect from this blog in the next 1000 posts... I invite you to come along, share your own story with us, and prepare to really, really live.


I saw this quote in Emma's school counselor's office, and I just love the practical and encouraging advice:

Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.
~ Arthur Ashe

I promise, this is what you can expect from me and Jacob's Reward Farm in the coming years...

Friday, July 27, 2012

Alien in the Pasture

Nothing ever stays the same around here.  This farming adventure allows us weekly opportunities to tweak and adjust our systems, so that everything works more smoothly, effectively, cheaper, and easier on the back.  That's great for someone like me who enjoys change and novelty.  Plus, it's my back that needs to be protected.

I've been ruminating for several years now about how to feed hay to our critters with the least amount of waste and work.  Though I had considered large round bales as an economical choice, I just didn't see how I could keep the hay out of our fleeces as the sheep or alpacas worked down those big bales, usually from the inside, out.  I thought about using a cattle panel/t-post contraption to contain them, but it seemed like a big hassle.

Young Dan delivers our bale from Poole Feed in Wylie
One round bale is like 12-14 small square bales
One of my favorite suppliers, Premier One Sheep Supply came up with a panel system that they swear works for sheep, and will save us money in the long run.  So I bit the bullet and bought their panels.  (I love to mess with the mind of our UPS driver who has to deliver such crazy packages to the farm.)

Tella is puzzled about being penned up.  She loves to help with projects.
I penned up the dogs to keep them out of the way while the hay was delivered and while I worked on the panels.  I also moved the sheep to the adjoining paddock to keep them from being underfoot - they are such absolute obstructionists when it comes to building projects.

The only tool I needed was pliers to untwist some wires.  Sweet.
Six heavy-duty welded wire panels, and six crazy pigtail wires that serve as hinges to connect them,  make up the system.  Strategically placed larger openings in the panels allow the sheep to get to the hay without destroying the bale or getting their heads caught.  Which would be a definite downer.

The pigtail wires twisted right onto the panel ends to hinge them together.  Brilliant.
 The panels went together very easily, and fit tightly around this bale.  Now, I just hope the sheep like the hay, and that as they eat it down, I can keep the panels pulled tightly around the bale.  This is supposed to reduce waste quite a bit.  If you've seen our sheep pens, you know how much hay gets completely trashed instead of eaten.  It's like burning cash with a blowtorch.

"What the...?"
Two brave sheep...
Now three...
Now the whole flock gathers round...
 When the project was done and I released the critters, you would think a spaceship had landed in the pasture.  Everyone, including the dogs, was hesitant to get close to it.  But they're all very curious critters, and they soon overcame their fears.  The dogs got bored and moved on, and the sheep relaxed and dove into the chomping.  I'll check back in 24 hours or so and see how much hay has been consumed.

It looks like it's going to work!