We are getting a cow!

A cow? Wow!

Well maybe not a cow, but a heifer who will some day be a cow.

Why a cow?

I used to have goats. I loved them, and I milked them twice a day. But after Steve got sick; it was just too much. Then after he went to Heaven, I sold them all.

Yes- I have the sheep for grass fed lamb, but I started thinking about raw dairy again and the possibility of grass fed beef.

I was going to go with a Dexter breed; but my drive to work everyday takes me past a beautiful place that raises a smallish beefy breed. So I looked them up and called them.

Today we met our new little heifer. She cannot come to live with us until December, but that gives me time to get the appropriate fencing installed.

All right, everyone let me introduce you to Sharing Life’s Abundance Farm’s Brianna Butter Bruce. We will call her Miss B, and later the sheeplings can call her Aunt B. One of my favorite TV personalities.

She is a cross between the Aberdeen black angus (the original small breed, which is a small meat breed with a sweet personality, and the White Brit which also has a nice personality but is used for both meat and milk. They are a short, beautifully marked stocky breed.

 

Brianna

Momma is on the left, and daddy is in the  back pasture to the right.

More cow fun to come!

 

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Reaching Out!

And Reaching up and Reaching down.

People. I love them. Men, women, boys and girls. I understand why people

are God’s greatest economy. I also understand why if we love God; we are to love others.

We are all different, but the differences fascinate me and always have.

I am a sanguine/otter/ENFP/encourager/entertainer/campaigner. I balance myself by attempting to develop the Melancholy/Beaver traits because they are much more organized than I am. My best friends tend to be melancholy or phlegmatic/Golden Retrievers. I tend to shy away from the bossy choleric/ lions who lead by powerful forces. I tend to lead in a softer way.

So, as I go through life, I look for opportunities to connect and get to know someone by chatting. It is very common for me after a short visit with a new person to hand them my phone and ask them if they would like to put their number in it. Most of the time they seem pleasantly surprised by my innocent but expectant request.

The reason that I find myself writing this is because, I just ran across a card of someone that I met about 3 months ago. I just called her and she answered. She was out of town visiting family, but was so thrilled to receive this call. She did not remember me at first, but when I reminded her of how we met; she remembered and said that this was just what she needed today.

Admit it, don’t we all need this sometimes? Just to think that we are important enough to be pursued in a new relationship. There is joy to be found there.

We kept the conversation brief, but planned a coffee date when she gets back. A new friend? I hope so, but even it is just a brief moment of encouragement, or joy in each others lives, that is enough for me.

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Ram-a-Lamb-a-Ding-Dong

Now that I decided to keep the two sheep; it is time to breed them.

Ivan is about 20# of pure cuteness!

I called up the lady who has rams (daddy sheep) and asked for a date for my two girls; Mary (the momma) and Bo-peep the daughter.

The lady told me that her prices have doubled since last year. She said that it would now cost me $300.00 to breed my two girls. She also wanted me to provide the food for them while they stay at her house for at least 30 days. The 30 days stay usually turns into 60 days in order to verify pregnancy with an ultrasound.

Yes, you read that right. I have a friend who owns an ultrasound. Not only can she verify pregnancy, but she can sometimes even verify gender.

I could have a pregnancy verification party!. Can you just see it? All my pregnant friends and their pregnant pets can come over to have ultrasounds. We could also crank up the Karaoke machine to sing lullabies to all babies (great and small), while the expectant fathers keep the fire pit going. Sounds like fun to me.

Ok back to sheeping. There is something else that you must do when you breed outside your own herd. You must take a blood test from each participant and send the blood to a lab to check for s-x-u-l-y transmitted diseases. I understand why the owner of the ram would expect that, but that adds a lot more money to the final cost of a lambing operation.

So instead of running to my bank to take out a loan, I went to Dr Google. I know that with some animals, there is a phenomena referred to as hybrid vigor. That is when you breed     a purebred animal of one variety to a purebred animal of a different variety-of the same type of animal.  The result is a half breed that grows to adult weight sooner than the purebred of either variety.

I have known this information since I was 12 and breeding meat rabbits. For instance; a California meat rabbit reaches harvest weight at 12 weeks, but when bred to a New Zealand White; the offspring will reach harvest weight at 10 weeks. This saves 2 weeks worth of time and food during a time when the rabbit eats the most food.

Back to sheeping again.  My research told me that one of the breeds that will create hybrid vigor( when bred to my Katadin girls); is a Dorper. So I called around and asked for a reputable source of Dorpers. All calls pointed to Mrs R. I called her, and had a lovely discussion with her.  She keeps a closed herd, which means that she does not breed outside of her flock. She makes her money by selling babies. Her babies have no disease, and her parent stock have papers to prove it.

Gary and I drove 82 miles out to Mrs R’s 15 acre property, and purchased a 6 week old bottle baby. I wanted to name him Ram-a-lamb-a-ding-dong, but when I saw how majestic his father was; I decided to let him keep his given name.

The reason that we decided on a bottle baby is that when a ram is raised by people with a bottle, he becomes a sweet pet and much easier to handle when he becomes the big 250# handsome daddy. He will be more than twice my weight, and I am not getting any younger (just better).

Ivan is as sweet as he can be. He comes into the house 3 times a day to slurp down about a pint of milk at each feeding. He spends his day out in the field with Mary and Bo peep. He spends his night sleeping with them in their barn.

Here is the magic in all of this. I would have had to pay $150, plus feed, plus lab fees every year for each of my two girls. But I paid 150.00 for Ivan, plus milk (until Ivan is old enough to just eat pasture) and in return; I will have my two girls bred every year from now on; without additional fees. I will have lamb in the freezer when the time is right, I could also barter with or sell a lamb to pay any costs that I might incur.

I did not name my little ram lamb for a doo-wop song after all. But last night;, when I put him to bed, I heard him singing to the lady sheep–

 

He was singing; Doo-wa-diddy-diddy-dum-diddy doo.

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Why I kept the sheep.

A friend of mine took a picture of Bo-Peep and put the verse on it. It now hangs in my hall way to remind me that I too need a shepherd.

My loyal followers know that I adopted a bottle baby lamb a couple of years ago. I named her Mary, because everywhere that Donna went that lamb was sure to go. Obviously I was not going to change my name to Mary, so she was the lucky recipient of the name.

Mary has  been a gentle (though not very bright) creature out in my pasture. Because I had built the pasture up with lots of different grasses; she eats primarily grass. I feed her alfalfa/Bermuda pellets during the winter to supplement the fact that the Bermuda in the field is dormant this time of year. But she is an easy keeper.

Her ewe lamb was born in June of 2017 and we named her Bo Peep. She is not nearly as friendly as her mamma, because I have not spent much time with her. She will be nine months old in March; the right age for butcher. But I decided to keep her.

First of all, you all know that I sold my dairy goats not long after Steve passed. Milking twice a day, working full time and spending more time at church, and social activities was just too much for this multi tasking girl. I actually considered selling the place, but decided to just slow down some of my activities. Having milk also meant that I would have to spend time making cheese with what I did not sell. So that was an easy decision.

The next reason is that sheep do not require the amount of attention that goats do. Goats love human attention. Sheep just want to be kept fed and watered.

Now that the goats are gone, Mary would be very lonely without Bo Peep. Once I am ready to breed these two girls, I will have at least two babies to raise for the freezer every year. Often times this breed has twins. So I could have 2-4 babies to raise for the freezer or I could sell one or two to offset any costs.

So there you go, two sheep are better than one.

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Raising Life Brings New Life

 

chicks hatching from an egg inside an incubator

My readers know that my husband passed away in April this past year. When that happened; the little farm property that we bought together (two and a half years ago) did not seem to bring me the same joy that it did when he was here enjoying it with me. I had actually meant to put it on the market, and was encouraged to do so by many. But…

I was fortunate to go on a trip to Chicago with a friend. One of the things that we did was go through the Museum  of Science and Industry. Of course my favorite part was the section on how food is raised, My friend (who had been there before) was so excited to show me the giant incubator. As we watched chicks hatch from eggs, I was struck once again by the magic of life. My friend who grew up in the city was amazed at the site of the chicks pipping out. I was thinking about chickens, eggs, gardens, fruit trees. The sustainability of planting a seed, and watching it grow into grass; that would feed the animals. They in turn would feed us. The rest of the trip I was thinking about my property, and what I had originally intended to do with it.

Several days went by, and each day I found myself day dreaming about reviving the gardens, replanting the pasture, obtaining more chickens, and then getting the sheep and pig bred.

So here I am in the new year; refreshing what I had originally started with Steve. Talking to my  friends again about farm community. Where will it all lead?

I do not know. What I do know is this. God told me that He was going to do something new with me; and He is. Praise you Lord.

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I Will Keep on Sharing

Homesteading After the Loss of My Spouse

My name is Donna. You may know me as the lady who has been raising organic vegetables year round in the desert of Phoenix Arizona for over 30 years. You may know me as Miss Abigail’s mom. You may even know me as the blogger over at Sharing Life’s Abundance.

But this year I received a new title; Widow. Yes, that is right. My best friend, playmate, handsome Hero husband Steve passed away in April 2017. He was diagnosed on March 18th with stage 4 pancreatic cancer, and went to Heaven on April 21st ; in my arms.

Of course there was a path beat to my door as friends brought food, hugs, and conversation for several days. People did not know what to say, or do to sooth me. There really was not anything that they could do to sooth me. Looking back, I realize that I just had to make the decision to get up off of the floor and move on.

I walked around in a fog for the first few weeks, rediscovering what it meant to just breathe. Going to work was automatic. When I spoke to people; it sounded like I was actually hearing someone else speaking. I would not call it depression, maybe shell shock.

I would go home to learn how to be alone in my big farm house, to eat alone, and to sleep alone. I wandered around my property; feeding my livestock on automatic pilot. I forgot to tend my garden beds. The fruit trees and grapevines went without pruning. Without Steve there to take care of the landscaping, the drip systems and to the trap the gophers and rats, everything went wild and the rodents started to take over the place. I wanted to sell and get out from under all the work that no longer interested me.

But then came December, I took a trip with a friend to Chicago. We went to the Museum of Science and industry. I toured the section of the museum that covered vertical farms and genetics. I watched as chicks hatched out of eggs in a giant incubator. I read about cattle in CFAOs, cows being shot up with hormones to produce more milk, and chickens in little bitty cages with light bulbs on them 24 hours a day; to make them lay more eggs than they were meant too. WHAT?

That was the moment that it all came back. The reason that I wanted the property in the first place. I wanted room to grow organic gardens, pasture for chickens, and goats to eat and play in while they were making eggs and milk for us to eat. I started planning on how I would trap those rats and gophers that were plaguing my property, I started trimming the fruit trees and planning Saturday morning work parties.

Over the years, I have built a network of friends who are fascinated by sustainability as much as I am. Most of my friends have been waiting for me to ask for help. So now I do, and they come running to help out. What fun we are having together. Much better than a girl’s night out over wine or a coffee shop chat.

I work as an RN and make good money. So I have hired landscapers to do the work that Steve used to do. That frees me up to continue to do some of the stuff that I used to do.

I will admit that I did make the decision to sell the goats for now. They are the animal that took the most time. The sheep eat the grass and drink water. Not only can they stay, but I will breed them both this next year. The chickens are easy, and I am getting a better incubator. I am  choosing a breed that is not so common; so that I can sell fertile eggs and chicks. But the goats needed milked twice a day, and then I had to make the cheese, yogurt and buttermilk. That was too much. Maybe when I retire I can take a look at that again.

My gardens are being revived, and on timed drip systems. I am making everything as easy on myself as I can while I continue to heal.

I have become more involved in the lives of others through my church, and that is blessing me greatly. I think that I will even do some more traveling. But I truly believe that I will keep my property so that I can continue to do what I believe God wants me to do. What is that you ask? I think that He wants me to continue to Share Life’s Abundance.

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Firsts-Wedding Anniversary

I married Steve on December 10th, 2005.Today, we would have celebrated 12 years of marriage and over 14 years of being together.

We got married at church, and had a potluck reception at the home that he was living in, and I was moving into. Moving into an already established family (three of his five kids were still living at home) was not easy on me. But I loved him and gave it everything that I had.

It has only been just over 7 months since he went to Heaven. Originally, I dreaded the coming of this date. But now that it is  here, I realize the amount of comfort that God has given me.

I remember how hard it was to just be still on the outside, while inside; I was so scared. I wanted to do something. I wanted to run, screaming; due to the panic that I felt that I was unable to help the man that I loved.

People who looked on, still tell me that they were amazed at how I walked through it as it unfolded. There are those who even suggested that I was on tranquilizers. I was not, I knew that I needed to be still, and hang on to Jesus in a way that I never had before.

During that time, God told me that He would walk me through it, and that He was going to do a new thing in me; and He has. In ways that I would have never imagined.

He has opened my eyes to others who need more help than I do, and I have used my pain as a catalyst to help others.
Some have suggested that I am not grieving properly. That is not so. They have not seen me in the long hours of the night as I learn to sleep alone. They are not there when I have waken myself up crying from a  bad dream with no one to comfort me.

But I know that I have made a choice; a choice to continue to hold on to-no- to cling to my Lord. He knew what I would go through before it happened, and He knows what I feel even better than I know now.

I choose to look around me, and see those who need my encouragement rather than to look at my own problems. Here is what I have found. When I say or do something that encourages others; there is a peace and joy that fills my heart. Happiness floods my brain, and the love and appreciation that comes back to me is indescribable.

But there is something else that is happening for the first time in my life. There are others in my life now who are making it a point to love on me, and encourage me. I am accepting this new love that is rushing towards me. Then in turn I show these new people love and appreciation.

My eyes are open to-and I am seeing for the first time in my life what it is to be a part of a big circle of encouragement, love and appreciation that is flowing through me. It flows into me, strengthens me and flows out of me; onto others.

God is indeed doing what He told me that He would do. He is doing a new thing in me. Look up Numbers 23:19 and see the promise there.

After saying all this; there are some who would read and say “Donna, you must not have truly loved Steve to be able to recover so quickly”

My answer to them especially his family who are still in different stages of grief than I…

Please read very carefully. I loved Steve like I have never loved. He told me that he never loved anyone the way that he loved me. I miss him very much. What he and I went through together during his final days still haunts my dreams, and causes me to wake up crying.

But, Steve is in Heaven. He is watching ballgames, going to yard sales, and planting roses. He is doing all the things that brought him joy. He is with Jesus, he is feeling joy like he has never known.

I am here and I have a choice to make. I can be angry, and find someone to blame for my pain. I can wear sack cloth and ashes, crying to anyone who will listen-or I can connect with others. I can lean on Jesus, and listen for the sound of His voice in my life. I can allow those who will encourage me to do so.

Steve is so happy where he is, that he would not come back given the chance, and I would not be selfish enough to ask. But–Steve I love you. Happy Anniversary.

 

 

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