Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Happy 20 Year Anniversary to us!!

Twenty Years!!!  My, how the time does fly right by, whether you're having fun or not.  Thankfully, these days, we are having fun, but it hasn't always been that way.  God has brought us through rocky times in our marriage that almost caused us to separate and live our lives apart.  I praise HIM for doing a work in both of us that allowed us to live life to the fullest with each other.  He can change hearts and mend broken spirits.  HIS restoration is powerful and worth all the hard work of sticking it out to become better people together.  

We took a long weekend and headed to the Chicago area.  We could see the John Hancock from a distance (14 miles away) as we approached our hotel.  It was nice to know we were so close to Chicago, yet far enough away to not feel like we were in the craziness of it.  

After getting all the children situated , we headed west.  We made arrangements with some friends in Valpo to stop by for a visit.  They were kind enough to share a meal with us and lots and lots of visiting too.  Loved our peaceful, backyard visit with the Slagers!
From there, we headed to our destination, Countryside, IL.  And right next to it was LaGrange, IL.  We felt right at home.  :)

The first morning we woke up and found a wonderful cafe that was jammed pack with people and filled with good food.  It was located in a downtown area that was busy, yet quaint.  With all the people standing in line, we thought for sure our wait would be a long time, but they got us seated right away.  We forgot what it's like to travel and dine without 6 children.  Everything is easier.  :)

After breakfast we headed to Go Ape, a treetop experience with zip lines.  Let's just say that I loved it and Jonathon did not.  Apparently he would rather keep his feet on the ground.  There was one moment where I felt a little funny in my eyes from being so high up, but I made it to the next platform and all was fine after that.  He struggled with taking that step off the platform to do the zip line.  He might have looked a little scared.  :)  

 There were 5 different stations.  We moved our trolley, that was attached to a harness that we were in, from one cable to the next.  Lots of safety learning ahead of time.  Every station had a ladder that we climbed to the first platform.  Then from there there were boards to walk on in the air, wires to walk on, rope walls to climb across, all while being way up in the air.    Some of the areas gave you an option whether you wanted to do moderate or extreme or difficult or extreme.  They weren't kidding when they said "extreme".  I'm still sore from some of those extreme sections.
Every landing from the zip line was special.  Jonathon ripped his jeans on one of his landings and I always thought I would make it facing forward, but always ended up sideways then backwards.  Made for an awkward landing, but funny.

I wish these pictures could truly show how high up we were.  The height didn't bother me, but some of the more wobbly parts of the course were unnerving.  

 This was the very last section before the longest zip line.  Right before this we did the Tarzan jump.  Talk about a rush of some kind.  You walk off a platform into mid air.  You drop and drop until your cable catches, then you swing across the forest into this large rope wall.  You bounce off of that the first time, then grab it the second time and climb up to the next platform.  We did it at the same time and both screamed the whole time we dropped.  I've never done anything like that!  

After our fun activity, we went back to the hotel for showers because we were both sweaty and dirty.  What a workout all that climbing and balancing was.  After we were cleaned up, we headed back to the downtown area where we ate breakfast.  We went to an Olive Oil and Vinegar store where we could taste different flavored oils and vinegars.  That was interesting.  We looked around a chocolate shop.  Then we decided to get an early supper, and Jonathon chose a steakhouse.  We walked into the building and then had to go to the basement to the actual restaurant.  Below was the entrance.  

We shared a meal and it was everything we both hoped for.  The steak was delicious, the sides were full of flavor, and the atmosphere was fun too.

After a lovely supper out, we did some much needed shopping without children, grabbed some sweet treats and headed back to the hotel for the evening.  We brought along the time capsule that was given to us for a wedding gift.  We opened it on our 10 year anniversary and again for this anniversary.  We plan on putting some new information in it, along with updated letters from family and friends.  If you want to contribute something, feel free to mail us something to put in.  We really enjoy reading through the letters from grandparents and parents.  Made me tear up as most of the family that contributed letters have passed away.  Even Jonathon expressed how he missed some of my family that were gone.  Sweet moments for us in remembering back.

The handwriting and the thoughts....brings back such memories. 

The hotel gave us free vouchers for a full breakfast at their restaurant, so the next morning we got up and went for a free breakfast.  Jonathon had waffles with berries and I had a veggie omelet with potatoes.  All was very good but not quite as good as the Blueberry Hill Cafe we went to before our zip lining expedition.

This area in Illinois is full of parks, so we decided to check one out before leaving to go home.  Of course we would pick the one with a waterfall.  It was small but so beautiful.  I could've sat there all day.  I told Jonathon if we had a place like this near us, school would be done by the falls every week.  There's just something so enjoyable about moving water.  It was the perfect place for little ones to play and enjoy nature.
We enjoyed passing moms with little ones and commenting on the children.  We might have started missing ours by this point.  ;)  Little ones in the way on the trail....we made sure the moms knew it was no problem at all.
On our way home, we made a farm store stop and a Hobby Lobby stop.  Our trip was complete.  :)

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Down on the Farm

We're learning alot during this first year of calving on the farm.  Hopefully you met Briar, our first calf to be born, in a previous blog post.  His birth was amazing in that we watched the whole thing progress from start to finish.  He's a spunky little guy though, so we weren't able to get our hands on him much.  He has had a halter on, but he's not too fond of it (neither was his mama).  

Our next mama due started labor in the late morning.  Jonathon was concerned she was having a hard time, but we watched and kept an eye on her.  Eventually we saw hooves.  Uh oh, back feet coming first is not good.  Jonathon had to leave for a short bit, but I kept my eyes on her and gave him updates as I could.  At one point I text him that we needed to help her when he got home, and only 8 minutes later I went out to check her and the baby was born.  Our first still born calf.  The mama licked, nudged, and kept trying to bring her baby to life with no success.  I'll admit, I did cry.  Watching that mama try so hard to get her baby up and not leaving baby's side was quite heart wrenching.  She stayed by that baby all night and the next morning, before she finally left it's side.  Jonathon went out and brought the calf up to the barn so we could bury it.  That mama mourned for 3 days, mooing sadly and going back to the spot where she had the baby.  It really was sad.  The farmer was just as sad to watch her grieve and watch the other mama moo at her like she was trying to console her.  The animal world is fascinating.  

The farmer was even sadder when he realized that the calf was his first heifer.  Our first girl.  Jonathon, Diella and I dug a hole.  What a sad day on the farm.  

A week later, I look out my kitchen window at the cows in the field and commented how that other girl out there sure looks miserable.  Farmer thinks she'll have her baby before the end of the week.  Next morning I'm taking a shower and Alegra comes in with news that there is a calf out in the field and it looks like the mama and calf are dead.  Ugh, WHAT???  Can't I just have a peaceful shower!  Jonathon had told me that when she went into labor, he wanted me to keep a close eye on her because she looked so big.  Why hadn't he mentioned to me before he left for work that she was in labor?  Did he even know?  

So, I told Alegra to go out and check to make sure they were alive.  She came back with a happy, full of life report.  After I got out of the shower, I called the farmer, "So, you have a new member on the farm."  His response, "WHAT???"  He apparently didn't check on them before he left for work.  What a relief that her labor was during the night and all was well.  We named that cow Flo since she flowed on her own and she seemed to be a much more mellow mama than Blossom.  We were actually able to get to the calf to tag the ear (#2) and check her over.  We have us a little girl!!!  The farmer is so happy!  

On day 2 he was feeling a little concerned about her because she was sleeping out in the hot sun all day long without nursing.  We walked out to check on her, where she let me really give her some lovins.  What a sweet, sweet girl.  She's got my heart.  I just might be turning into a farmer's wife, but, shhh, don't tell the farmer.  ;)  Alegra named this one, and her name is Fern.     

 Isn't she just the sweetest thing.  Oh, and Briar is pretty fond of her too.  He was right with her in the field with her mama when we found them that first morning.  

There is more happenings on the farm too.  We're waiting for one more mama to have her baby.  She's getting bigger.  She is one of our Herefords that was artificially inseminated, so she might have a cute little hereford calf.  We are excited to see what she has.  Our other cow may or may not be pregnant.  We aren't real sure at this point.  She wouldn't be due til a little later, so we watch and wait.  Rosie is up next though.

Jonathon has also been busy doing hay to prepare for winter.  He's such a hard worker and loves his animals.  Knowing that he has cattle and machinery back on the farm does his heart good and mine too when I hear him talk about it.  It's not a luxurious life, but it's our life, and we live it together, all while raising our children to work hard, love the animals and love the land.

When you have a friend over who loves the country life too, she gets to learn how to bale hay. :)
And make lots of memories on the farm too.

The garden is planted and looking pretty good so far.  Strawberry plants are growing and hopefully we'll have our own to pick next year.  Herbs are planted and getting established.  Our rhubarb patch didn't do so swell, but we'll plant again in the fall in the spots where it died.  We've got chicks galore and a crazy dog who thinks he's the keeper of them.  He loves getting in their pen and keeping them herded to the designated place he makes for them.  He's becoming quite the farm dog and making up for all the times I was ready to send him back to the shelter when we first got him.  It's taken a lot of training and he still has some areas he could grow in, but overall, I can't complain since he's cooperative with Hadassah crawling all over him and he doesn't mind all the little critters that are around here.  He's been hearing, "Good boy!"  more and more.