fall farm update

New Coop

Nathan and Alexander built a chicken coop with downloaded free online plans. This “chick-shaw” can house 30 chickens, never needs cleaning, and is mobile. The boys move it around every few days so that the manure gets spread out throughout the pasture. William lets the chickens out at sunrise and closes them up after dusk, but, really, they return to the coop when the sun goes down on their own. They free range all over the pasture during the day, and a couple of them like to lay their eggs in the sheep’s hay feeder. I don’t think sheep like eggs, we just have to remember to go get them. We currently have 20 hens and 1 rooster. He’s the nicest rooster ever.


Raspberries

We never thought, but raspberries our more prolific in the fall than even the summer harvest. Our variety produces in June and again in September, but this year, we still have some frozen under the snow.


Pigs

Nibbles turned a year old, and we (along with a few customers) are grateful for full freezers. The children are looking forward to bacon and eggs, and mom has meals planned though the winter. We have a fourth pig still growing which will be a year old in the spring.


Pumpkins

We had a very low harvest for all of our garden vegetables this year except for pie pumpkins. They were lustrous and abundant. It’s so delightful to use them around the house until we’re ready for baking them.


Bees

In the fall, Nathan and William add a reducer to the hive entrance. This prevents other insects like wasps from getting in and stealing the honey. We’re still enjoying raw, unfiltered honey, and we have it for sale too! We see a few bees still visit the few wildflowers that are most cold-resistant.


Sheep

We had three lambs born this fall. A singleton and a set of twins. One of the twins had a hard time within the first 48 hours, so we brought her in the house and bottle fed her. Really, force-fed her. She didn’t want to eat for 2 weeks. This is when Nathan noticed that her knee joint was swollen. He did some research and found that lambs that are rejected by their moms are especially susceptible to an infection. Alexander gave her a shot of penicillin for 10 days, and although she’s quite small, she is back in the pasture with the flock and just started eating sweet supplemental grain this week.


Llama

Larry has been the best shepherd for our sheep! We have never had any incident with losing even a lamb to predators. Each time there’s someone going on a walk with their dog or a neighbor riding a horse down our road, he races to the fence and watches. Larry lives with the sheep in the pasture and is always with them.

Fall is quieter than summer. We’re happy to have enough hay till the spring and all the animals buttoned up for the cold weather.

Until next time!

 with love, Damaris


postpartum care and wardrobe

There is so much hype surrounding labor and preparing for baby’s arrival that many moms don’t even consider how they’re going to feel when they get home.

It’s not uncommon to feel like time is both standing still and moving too quickly. The fourth trimester is an important time that shouldn’t be rushed. For our baby, for ourselves, and for our families, we’re better off to prepare. While the magical and exhausting days after birth bliss pass quickly, we need to be aware of our body’s healing.

“I don’t have time to shower!” is something every new mom feels in the first few weeks (okay, months). Today I’m sharing what I’ve used to feel a little more put together without taking much time. Also, the fourth trimester attire is real and necessary.  Mandatory soft sweats, stretchy jammies, and soft sleeping/sports bras make a tremendous difference in our mood and comfort during the several weeks of postpartum.

Here’s a list with links to all of my favorite items for postpartum wardrobe and care:

Cleansing Face Wipes – I love these! They are perfect to keep in the nightstand for washing my face at the 3am feeding, if I haven’t gotten to it earlier. These are quick, no getting out of bed, no waiting for the water to run warm at the sink, no lathering, etc. : )

Dry Shampoo – always smells good and when you spray the roots, you actually get lots of volume. It’s a multipurpose product that helps you feel fresh and combats flat, day-old (or two or three) hair.

Perineal Spray – it provides healing and relief without the chemicals. The application is just a simple and light spray.

Feminine Pads – the length of time you may use these varies tremendously between 10 days or so to 6 or more weeks. I like the long and thin for most comfort and extra coverage at night.

Depends/Always Discreet Underwear – what the hospital provides is usually not tight or secure. It’s mesh and itchy and never stays in place. I brought these to the hospital and was so happy I did! I wore them until the package was empty which was just right. They are very comfortable, you feel very dry with no leaks, and they have a little built-in support for feeling covered and all tucked in.

Breast Cream – this is a must. I always use it consistantly for the first couple of weeks. I’m so afraid of getting chapped or worse. This balm gives very thick protection.

Nursing Pads – disposable is quick and you may not need them for very long. I like to wear them especially during the weeks I apply the breast cream since it can stain or leave a greasy residue on clothing.

Witch Hazel Pads – these are my secret weapon. I have used them for all of my postpartums (eight), and it feels very cooling and clean. I use them until the package is gone. First, I wear them over the pad, later, I use them to wipe and feel like the healing is coming along.

Underwear – just a couple of these help smooth out the middle-section so fabrics don’t cling in all the wrong places ; )

High-waisted Leggings – they cover the tummy when nursing for more comfort. These have a gentle compression that secures the post-baby belly and feels supportive on my back.

Seamless, Soft Sports Bra – I always wear one through labor and delivery and really for the first few weeks. It doesn’t tug or dig anywhere and you still feel supported. Later, when I wore regular nursing bras, I still wore these to bed for the comfort for sleep and ease of nursing.

Sweatshirt – soft and cozy adds a little comfort when you’re extremely tired. This works great when you’re too sleepy to change into pajamas.

Protein Drink – helped me get to the next meal if we were going to be out or if i was nursing/pumping and couldn’t get a bit to eat until a little later.

Concealer – this one is thick and a very little bit goes a long way. I’m still using it over a year later.

Audio Bible – listened everyday and brought so much joy to my soul. I would switch up the versions (a different reader with each one). I purposed to listen during my morning feeding/pumping session. It was very comforting and I looked forward to it.

Tylenol – when you’re not a first-time mom, afterbirth pains may be intense. I have sometimes taken it just to not think about it. Afterbirth pains should taper off within the first week.

Nursing/lounging Clothes – you may have taken some to the hospital, but if not, having a couple sets at home is very practical. You’re comfortable and discreet for visitors, but can slip into bed for a quick nap midday, too. It’s a wonderful feeling to change into clean clothes when there are so many messes around : )

Probiotics – I mentioned similar ones in a previous post regarding postpartum preparation. It was helpful to take them through the postpartum weeks to keep the digestive system regular. It may boost the immune system, so I take it in hopes to compensate for lack of sleep lowering my immune system.

Water Bottle – staying hydrated is so important! It will affect your milk supply. I like this kind because I can sip it while driving without having to tilt the bottle. It also doesn’t require two hands to unscrew when nursing.

Extra Set of Bedsheets – if baby’s diaper leaking and spitting up the whole feeding doesn’t convince you, then mom’s night sweats and midnight snacking in bed will. You’ll need another set of sheets for a 3:15am bed change. Choose natural fibers like cotton or linen.

 with love, Damaris

three treats with all the feel of fall

Happy First Day of Autumn! A strong warm wind blew all day yesterday warning us that the piles of leaves will soon be rustling under our feet. The sounds of summer fade to a crinkly whisper and rich green turns to dusty gold. Acorns keep the squirrels busy and we know the world is changing.

harvest apple dip

Applesauce, fresh apple slices, apple butter, baked apples, apple pie, or just a whole apple in your pocket can only mean one thing. September is for apples, and we love this three ingredient apple dip. I always double the recipe, cover the bowl we served it in, and store it in the fridge for next time. We have this at lunch, for a snack, and as a fruit side with supper. It’s only three ingredients: cream cheese, brown sugar, and vanilla extract.

https://letsdishrecipes.com/2017/09/three-ingredient-apple-dip.html

apple bread

Apple bread is at the top of our family’s favorite quick breads. It’s sweet and soft and we often serve it alongside dinner. You’re going to love this recipe full of chunky apples! We use 1 cup of sugar instead of 2 cups.

https://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/apple-bread/

maple milk

The maple milk is turning into our family’s year around favorite special drink. We used to only have it cold during the summertime, but warm is the best alternative to hot chocolate in case sometimes you want something else :).

It’s just two ingredients:

  • 1 cup milk (cold, warm, hot)
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup (we prefer FirstFruits Farms maple syrup :). Comment or email us if you’d like some!

We sometimes sprinkle cinnamon on top or a little nutmeg (the children’s preferred way).

Do you have simple recipes your family loves? Happy Fall Friends!

 with love, Damaris

preparing for postpartum

After eight deliveries, I feel comfortable to talk about my personal postpartum experience. With each baby’s arrival, I learned how to prepare for the ups and downs of postpartum, which has been very appropriately nicknamed the fourth trimester. Even though I’m not wiser nor a medical professional, I know my postpartum self pretty well – and it isn’t six weeks.  Feeling stronger, feeling rested, coming out of the mental fog, having stamina and focus, all these take longer that six weeks to recover. 

We all have ‘glitter marks’ (I read this somewhere, and I love it!) in different places.  Some carry extra weight, other’s skin is forever changed, a few have soft in different places.  Many of our glitter marks disappear and some stay with us forever. 

But not all the changes are physical, our minds will cope differently which is the one part of postpartum that you can’t physically see or compare.  We find ourselves exhausted with the joy that is the fourth trimester as we become acquainted with our shifting hormones. You can be happy beyond measure and cry tears of sadness or fear at the same time. 

Motherhood changes us physically, mentally, and emotionally.  Some of these changes are permanent, but most are only temporary.  The unsettled feeling, discouragement, freak out moments can be so normal and often feel that they’ll become permanent.

We want these early newborn days and weeks to be a celebration of the sacredness of life, so having a chance to understand and prepare will help the transition that is postpartum. I’m compiling a list of my postpartum essentials, but today I’d like to share a few things I’ve learned about the postpartum journey:

it gets better. With the passing weeks, you will feel stronger and have more stamina.

it’s very brave to ask for help. Remembering that so many women understand and care makes it tremendously better.

slow down. Have time to bond with the baby, time to talk, and cry.  A good friend, mom, or husband will allow you to have a good sob and release those hormones.

eat, drink, and sleep well, or as best you can.  Nutritious food is very important to balance our hormones. It will be difficult to find time and mental focus to invest into menu planning and healthy pantry items, so it’s best to prepare before the birth.  I freeze wholesome meals before baby comes, stock the pantry, make simple breakfasts menu (more like a list that Dad or grandma can follow), and lunch ideas based on what we keep stocked and what the children like. 

get in the sun.  I have made it part of my recovery routine to be outside everyday (usually a short 15 minute stroll).

probiotics. Gut health is closely associated to mental health. Link.

prenatal with DHA fish oils. Continue to take it daily. Getting enough iron, vitamin D, B vitamins, and proteins will help recovery.

activities for the siblings. I always buy a few craft kits from Hobby Lobby of Michael’s. Many years ago, my sister-in-law mailed us a new Cat in the Hat DVD soon after having a baby, and it was so hepful for the siblings. Having the littles sitting at the table with a craft or on the couch while you nurse is priceless peace of mind. A container with new puzzles, coloring books, crayons, stickers, etc. is also handy.

routine. I try to have a couple things that I do everyday that make me feel normal.  Notice I said a couple :). Little daily anchors, if you will.  Mine are to have a cup of coffee in the morning, take a shower (even if it’s mid-day), sit down with the family at dinnertime, pray with the littles and kiss them in their beds.  These few and little things are big deals in postpartum and can help make you feel sane.

What other advice would you give an expecting mama?

 with love, Damaris

family currents: last call to summer

August began with a hot sun, though it didn’t hang on to the summer song long. We all seemed keenly aware this year that the changing days would soon give way to the start of school, and we savored the last of summertime’s fun.

Eva and William got to take tennis lessons through our township’s Rec and Ed. Thursday evenings were spent at the park riding bikes, playing in the play structures, or walking the trails while we waited for them.


Since our anniversary and my birthday were in August, we went on a couple outings without the children. We took lots of pictures and told them all about it, though : ). We are so blessed to celebrate 17 years of wedded bliss!


Samuel had a birthday. He’s 3!!! It’s truly the magical birthday age. He was very aware his special day was coming and couldn’t contain his long trains of questions, “And get presents? And blow candles? And my birthday? And get presents?”


We also went to the lake because if you live in Michigan, it is the proper way to enjoy summer. Of course, thunderstorms rolled in, and we packed up our encampment pretty quickly to enjoy a bowl of lentil stew at home.


This was the year of the frog. The children found so. many. frogs and toads! Cicadas, katydids (green leaf bug), praying mantis, and garden spiders also went into Samuel’s new bug box. And sometimes all at once. Not a good outcome for some. Nope.


This was also the summer we ran an animal rescue. Eva started the summer with a baby raccoon she named Boone.

And the three little girls found three baby bunnies!


We enjoyed pizzas on the grill most Sunday afternoons, and sometimes shared it with friends. Alexander would get pretty creative with the toppings, and Nathan grilled them to a crispy perfection. Our long picnic table makes for easy after supper clean-up, so we ate most suppers al fresco.


Nathan had bought a few large sky lanterns, and on the last weekend of August (while lovely friends were visiting), all the boys released the lanterns as a Farewell to Summer.

 with love, Damaris

modest teen girl outfits for back to school

Since summer is coming to an end, we’ve begun looking at the fall clothes that we have and what we need to add to the children’s wardrobes. I’m especially focused on the older kids’ wardrobes, since they don’t have a previous sibling’s clothes waiting to be rediscovered from a storage tote in the basement…

So that means Eva and I have an awesome excuse to go shopping! Shopping for clothes for Eva, who is now 13, means browsing the women’s section. Yes! She’s all grown up, and I couldn’t be more pleased. She’s a true blessing in our home as a sister/friend and a loving helper.

As we picked transition outfits for the new season, we had two criteria:

  1. modest yet stylish
  2. at a good price

Looking or shopping for clothes is a good opportunity to talk about and instill in our daughters a sense of modesty. Finding age-appropriate, feminine, fashionable clothes can be hard, and it is equally challenging to find them at a reasonable price.

It’s important to add that modesty is a virtue, and dressing modestly doesn’t make you modest. Trying not to draw undue attention to ourselves is both in action and in dress. Particularly as moms, we should help our teenagers recognize that their attractiveness is not tied up in their clothes. We should encourage them to feel respectable, appropriate, decent, and humble as they transition throughout the seasons of life.

This past week, Eva and I looked for items that she’d like to add to her wardrobe. We’re including some that she already owns or are very similar. Both of us think you’re going to love these outfits and find them perfect for the transition from summer to fall.

 with love, Damaris

our summer road trip: part 2

Our family had the privilege of taking a road trip to Colorado this summer, and amidst many fun adventures (read about it here), our van broke. Descending down the mountain after our long hike to Calypso Cascades in Rocky Mountain National Park, the brakes broke on the van.

It took a couple of days for Nathan to find the parts, get to town to pick them up, and repair the van brakes. The Lord kept us safe, and we were so grateful for a running vehicle to make the two-day trip back to Michigan.

While it was still so cold in the mountains (and five days without a van), doing laundry at the kitchen sink, reading picture books (which we brought with us from the library) by the fire, and playing board games filled our days.

Finally wrapped in sunshine, we spent the day at a nearby town picnicking, fishing, carousel riding, and visiting the obligatory ice cream shop. I almost forgot about the tiny homemade donuts we ate in a 19th century train car!

The whole family enjoyed the company of our cabin neighbors from down the hill for a few dinners and good games of cards. The big kids roused to the added competition. They have been family friends for three generations watching our family grow from trip to trip. They shared good stories and smoothly engaged the children in conversation.

As for wildlife, on this trip we saw many stellar’s jay, a magpie, wild turkeys, deer, and three male elk (bulls). I’m always very happy to not sight a bear : ).

When our cabin days were over, we began our descent through the St. Vrain canyon, rose skies ahead as we drove east. The older children took a melancholic glance saying “good morning” and “good-bye” and everything that goes in between.

 with love, Damaris

P.S. Both on the way out and on the way back, we stayed in Nebraska getting to attend church together and sharing much special cousin time with all of Nathan’s family. Fire works, fishing, building and shooting potato guns, swimming, target shooting, and a talent show made for a most memorable time.


our summer road trip: part 1

Family travel is such a privilege and a gift. This summer we enjoyed a trip west to Colorado. The blur of passing landscapes, munching messy sandwiches, and playing I-SPY until we had a headache, was all part of the whimsy and sense of adventure we experienced.

We welcomed the changing horizon through the different states with the excitement of spending almost two weeks at the family cabin in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

On the second day of driving, the mountains were lifting themselves up as if by magic out of the distance, small in the begining and growing bigger the closer we got.

The familiar cabin greeted all ten giddy vacationers, and the unloading took the rest of the first day. We slid a frozen pasta dish into the oven while we made beds, settled into our rooms, and filled the fridge and pantry with our groceries. For this long cabin stay, I like to have several meals prepared and frozen from home so kitchen prep is minimal allowing us more time to relax. You can read about one of the recent road trips here.

Summer was delayed this year. The air was sharp and supremely clear with even a little snow. On Sunday, we awoke while it was barely light to flurries. For lack of clean warm clothes, we relished our little family worship instead of walking to the village log church.

Nathan and I savored the empty mornings, when the sky was so blue, the floating piles of clouds so shimmering and pearly. We brewed full pots of coffee and swirled pancake batter in a bowl. Slowly, the children would make their way downstairs to the smell of breakfast. With their clean morning faces and bright eyes, each day looking ready for a new adventure.

We hiked as many mornings as we could (if it wasn’t too cold or raining) with the children scampering ahead of us like puppies. Pine needles crunched under our feet as we ascend to Big Rock. While mom frets over holding onto each kid and trying not to look over the edge of the rocks, Nathan and the children love to look for dark roofs of cabins that lay scattered and follow the ribbon of road.

The temperature rose enough that the pine needles smelled their nostalgic sunburnt scent, and we played many rounds of horseshoes.

The wildflowers all around us assumed their full glory. God’s design is perfect!

The only long hike this year was Calypso Cascades. The eight miles round trip were an adventure mostly of endurance. Even little Samuel hiked the whole way there, and Nathan carried him on the way back. We stopped several times on our hike to take in the air and the view. The scape far and wide was rocky and evergreen.

Driving back to the cabin, the van’s brakes broke.

That wraps up this first road trip post, but you can expect more about what happened to the big family van the rest of our trip experiences next week.

 with love, Damaris

using herbs for homemade gifts

The herb garden is my favorite!  The immediate reward compared to the little input in maintaining it is what I love. The little plants are inexpensive and several of them come back every spring. You’ll be surprised how particularly prolific herbs are! The delight in stepping out of the farmhouse kitchen and cutting a handful of sage for the chicken roast can’t be easily surpassed. Of course, the herbs’ various scents are pleasurable for even the littlest ones in the family : ).

They enjoy chewing on the leaves of most of the herbs. “Spearmint tastes like chewing gum, but it doesn’t make a mess in your hair.”

Over the summers, we’ve put together little herb favors from our own harvest. Homemade food gifts are always cherished for their thoughtfulness. Maybe consider presenting the herb-infused gifts to friends with a list of serving suggestions.

Lavender sprigs are a delicate bundle to gift.  It will brighten anyone’s day gathered in simple ribbon.  This takes no time nor effort, yet it may cheer the recipient alongside a simple batch of cookies or a pot of soup.

Salt-Herb Blends – Sprinkle a custom seasoning onto vegetables and meats before cooking, or pass it at the table.  Combine 1/4 cup coarse salt with 2 to 4 tablespoons mixed ground spices, chopped fresh herbs, or zest (be sure to refrigerate fresh-herb and zest blends; discard unused portion after 1 week).  Try mix-ins such as caraway seeds and pepper; thyme and lemon zest; toasted black-and-white sesame seeds; and chile powder and oregano.

Herb Infused Honey – Enhance the flavor and aroma of an ordinary jar of honey by putting in two or three sprigs of fresh herbs into the syrup.  Lavender is a wonderful addition!

Herb Infused Olive Oil – Choosing a pretty bottle always makes the gift special.  Wash the herbs and dry them thoroughly.  Extra virgin olive oil will taste best.  Add the herb sprigs, a couple of whole garlics (unpeeled) and even a little chile pepper for a full flavored oil.  Oil is often used for preserving food, so it will not go bad at room temperature.

Herb Infused Vinegar – Select a favorite mild vinegar (white wine or rice) and add 5 herb sprigs to 2 cups of vinegar (a 12-16 oz. bottle will do great).  Oregano, rosemary, tarragon, or thyme, lightly crushed or left whole add a fair amount of flavor to the vinegar.  The vinegar can be stored at room temperature. 

 with love, Damaris

10 things you’d never know about me

As you can tell from previous posts, sometimes Nathan shares his thoughts in this space, often we have pictures that Alexander or Eva have taken, but mostly it’s my joy. I relish making this little corner of cyberworld my delightful dwelling.

Hence this post – a get to know me of sorts. Just a few things about my life which may surprise you. In compiling this list, I asked the children if there were any more “strange things about mom” that I should add. Quickly and puzzled they replied, “You want people to think you’re weird?” Ha!

Here are 10 things you’d never know about me:

  • born and raised in a pastor’s home
  • never owned a curling iron
  • pregnant 11 times
  • never floss
  • doing yoga on and off for 12 years (Just the exercise not the meditation)
  • never had a big mac or a whopper
  • had 1 cesarean, 1 unmedicated delivery and 6 with epidural
  • vegetarian before I had children
  • never broken a bone
  • learned English as a second language when I was 8 years old

Now it’s my turn to hear about you. I would enjoy that very much!

 with love, Damaris