Thursday, September 18, 2014

What a fun and crazy summer it has been.

For most of the summer our house was ripped apart and in complete chaos and turmoil. I spent a month or two trying to avoid the downstairs and the various construction crews that were working hard on our house for us. The kids and I went on a lot of day trips or spent our days cooped upstairs reading lots of books, or playing in the backyard.

I'm still sorting through photos that I managed to snap this summer, so more on the remodel at a later point.

Now our house is back to "normal" (at least mostly), we are just working -- very slowly -- on putting trim up around windows and doors and floor boards. We are also feeling the pressing need to chop lots of wood for our new wood stove (!!) so we can be warm this winter. (I use the term "we" very loosely here, mostly I follow Clay around and tell him he's doing a good job.) So finishing trim may take a while.

That is okay, though. After being a bit stressed with the upheaval all summer I am now feeling like our house is a home again. I am *still* catching up on some of the cleaning that got backed up during the remodel (as evidenced by a few patches of drywall and spray foam insulation that I haven't scrubbed off of our wood floors yet...). Our front porch is still a construction zone, acting as a storage room for trim boards and saws. But I can make dinner in our nice new kitchen, and put things away where they belong. For the most part.

And now I have switched gears to homeschooling and the majority of our days are filled with singing fun memory songs, poetry, reading books and admiring handwriting selections. Housework and home projects have become a bonus that I may miraculously squeeze in on occasion.

We all look forward to Saturdays, though. When we are not busy with fun family activities, Saturdays are set aside for playing and working outside with Daddy. Coffee in bed, milking the cow, pancake brunch, farm projects and playing with ponies.

Buttercup, the family milk cow, has become a wonderful addition to the farm. We drive her to and from her pasture every morning and evening and lock up her calf for the night. But, so far, during the week, early morning milkings have been handled by my fabulous mother-in-law. Margaret loves joining her when she is able to get up in time (unfortunately her alarm clock has been rather inconsistent in its desire to work).

Saturday mornings, however, we have managed to take over (and Sundays are a day of rest for everyone). Clay pretty much does it all, but me and the kids take short turns so we can slowly (very slowly) build up our hand strength and endurance. Buttercup is very patient with us.

She has been such a sweet, patient cow all in all, I'm pretty thankful for her disposition. Since we got her as a young heifer it took her a little while to get used to being handled. But with a little grain (okay, a lot of grain), a lot of patience, a lot of love from Margaret, and a few long first milkings with Sharon, she settled into the routine and is now so tolerant of the little kids it's amazing.

We all held our breath waiting for her calf to arrive last spring, checking on her multiple times every day for weeks. And then little Easter (named by the kids) managed to arrive within a 20 minute window when I wasn't looking. The kids were enthralled, and Buttercup seemed pretty happy too.

Easter is a pretty fun little guy. He is also a little trouble maker and thinks he owns the place. Clay and I took to calling him the "Nor'Easter". It didn't help that we had lots of temporary electric fencing up, that often didn't work, while we worked on building a new paddock and set-up for the horses.  He skipped under all the fences and had free reign of the yard most of the time. He worried his mother endlessly.

He also preferred not to to be shut up in his (very cozy, new) stall every night away from his mother, so a few of our evening round ups became very rodeo-esque. Fortunately Buttercup really likes a little scoopful of grain, so she was a good influence. 

This picture is a pretty typical cow driving... Clay driving them up, Margaret being a huge assistance blocking them, and William fixing his cowboy boots in the middle of the field.

Recently the kids have gotten so good at driving Buttercup up to the field in the mornings that I just have to walk along behind to make sure everyone is safe. Margaret drives her up to the trail and then runs ahead to open the gates. William runs ahead too, to block the way and channel them into the right pasture. And Amelia drives Buttercup & Easter up the trail all by herself with an adorably, smugly proud look on her face. 

Susannah LOVES to accompany Daddy and the other kids to retrieve Buttercup in the evenings. Clay has taken to calling for the cow with a high-pitched "Buttercup! Yoo-Hoo!" to make her like him better (a response to the fact that she came running for Margaret, me & Sharon before him...and inspired by Cranford's famous cow-fetching scene with the scottish accented: "Bessy dearest!").
Now whenever Susannah sees Clay arrive home from work she starts running around sweetly calling "Bu-er-up!! Yooooo-hoooo!".

Margaret loves her cow.

On Saturday mornings the kids like to don their farm overalls and head out to the barn. Most of the time they are playing games or just watching....

But for a few minutes they each get a short turn milking. Margaret is actually quite good, just her endurance still needs some work. 

Buttercup is one happy cow with a trough full of grain.

And at the end everyone is rewarded with a cup full of fresh jersey milk. It's delicious.

A well-earned prize for our hard working milk crew.


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