Snow Day

When we began telling people we were moving to Wyoming they were all very concerned about how I would handle the winter.  I spent my childhood in southern California and moved to southern Nevada as a senior in high school, so I had never experienced a real winter.  And by “real winter” I mean a winter with snow.  I must admit that I was also concerned about how I’d handle the freezing Wyoming winters.  After all, I’d much rather be hot than cold.

Last year during our first winter all of the seasoned WY residents kept telling me I had it easy because it was a very mild winter.  When the temperature dipped down to negative 25 degrees I thought for sure the locals were crazy.  How can 25 degrees BELOW zero be mild?!  I mean, really!  As far as I’m concerned -25 is Arctic weather.  We had some snow but it was the cold that was the big issue and it wasn’t even that hard to deal with.  I suited up in insulated coveralls, a hoodie, a beanie, a scarf, two pairs of gloves, and rubber boots to go outside and do animal chores.  When I wasn’t doing chores I stayed inside where it’s warm and cozy.  It was similar to when we lived in Nevada and we stayed in the cool house when the summer temps were in above 100.  Our first winter was cold but manageable.

This year winter is a little bit different.  It hasn’t been quite as cold, but we’ve gotten more snow.  Over the last two days we’ve had a true Wyoming winter storm and I now I understand what the locals were trying to tell me last year.  Winter in Wyoming is not just cold, it includes lots of snow and lots of big wind.

Snow has just been dumping on us the few days and the strong winds have created some big snow drifts around our house.  Doing chores is like wading through an ocean of fine, powdery snow.  It’s quite a workout!  We have to fire up the Excursion and drive Maddie to the road to meet the school bus because the drifts in our driveway are just too big.  Charlie has been shoveling snow multiple times a day because the wind just keeps filling the pathways right back in.  I have never seen this much snow in my life!  But the most impressive sight is how the wind blows the snow across the snow covered fields.

The best way for you to understand this crazy snow situation is to see it for yourself…

20151216_073615

It’s so nice of Charlie to shovel a path to the cars. He’s so nice.

20151216_074354

Looks like the Buick will be parked for a few days.

20151216_074337

The wind sure makes some pretty snow drifts!

20151216_073621

Charlie is hard at work!

20151216_080433

Snow for days.

20151216_075043

Only some of the goats were hungry enough to go out in the snow.

20151216_075322

The ducks love the snow! They actually burrow down into it.

20151216_073901

These pups don’t even notice the cold or the wind. They run around and play all day like it’s nothing.

20151216_073856

The weather was so bad that we had to bring Jolene in for the night. I think she’s ready to get back out to her pasture.

20151216_074049

The chickens are warm and toasty in their coop.

20151216_074057

Nice little drift in front of our garage.

20151216_074326

You can kind of see the snow blowing across the ground. Our footsteps were covered in within minutes.

20151216_074401

It sure is a good thing we don’t have turkeys anymore, or they’d be totally covered in snow!

20151216_075418

This is a bit blurry but you can really see the snow blowing around.

20151216_075411

Those crazy pups don’t even notice the freezing cold wind!

 

Advertisements

For The Love!

11707768_10206234348291595_8397783984738380235_oOk, this post is not exactly farm related but I’m too excited about all this not to share it with you!  Back in March I submitted an application to be a part of the Launch Team for Jen Hatmaker’s new book For The Love , which actually releases today.  It was a total longshot.  I mean, I have this little blog about farm life with a handful of followers.  Surely that’s not quite the platform the publishing company had in mind when they agreed to compile a launch team full of Jen’s people.  But I applied anyway because I love Jen Hatmaker!  She is one of my favorite authors and bloggers.  She is so funny and transparent and relatable.  If you’ve never heard of her before I suggest reading one of my favorite blogs “Worst End of School Year Mom Ever”.  This should give you a good idea of her humor and honesty.  And if you’d like to read something on a more serious note I highly recommend her book 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. It will wreck your life, but in a good way.

11822506_10206369296145207_9216501247154949442_n

See what I mean? Jen is funny! (photo credit: Carlee Ann Easton)

Anyway, back to my story… I submitted my application and went on with my life, not really expecting anything to happen.  When I got the acceptance email while getting my hair done, I just about jumped out of the chair.  I was chosen!  They picked me!  I was one of #the500 chosen out of over 5,000 applicants.  This was one of the most exciting things to ever happen to me!  I promptly joined the Launch Team group on Facebook, and went into fangirl mode every time Jen Hatmaker posted or commented in the group.

I’m still fangirling over this whole thing, but not just because Jen and I are now on a first name basis and she invited me (and the launch team) to her house.  What started out as a fun way to connect with one of my favorite authors quickly became a blessing of community.  My love for this book goes so much deeper than the profound words written on the pages because I have seen its message lived out.  I have seen this book and Jen’s words create a community steeped in transparency, truth, grace, kindness, and love.  Rebecca Beckett hit the nail on the head when she said, “Jen Hatmaker did not write a book, she wrote a community.” A real community of people that showed up, told the truth, and were set free from the crazy idea that everybody else has it all together all the time, while we’re over here struggling to make it to nap time.

11885378_400618513464616_2912780051771905864_n (1)

For The Love is full of truth, grace, encouragement, Jesus, and a good sprinkling of Jen’s laugh out loud humor.  It is a breath of fresh air for anybody struggling under the weight of the world’s impossible standards.  If you read one book this year, let this be the one.

11879196_10152991955915598_8614855513336711088_o

We’re Back!

Hello!  Has it really been 5 months since our last blog post?!  That just seems crazy to me.  I must admit that I was not prepared for how the pace of life would ramp up once winter finally ended.  As soon as the ground thawed we were outside everyday working on various projects.  There were fences to build, a garden to plant, buildings to move, a coop to renovate, and a garage in desperate need of cleaning and organization.  After months of being cold it was so nice to get outside and defrost!  In the haze of spring projects we neglected our blog, but now we’re back and we have so much to tell you!  We’re working on posts for all the blog-worthy projects and events that happened over the last few months and here’s a little snippet of what’s to come.

It’s not farm news, but back in March I was selected to be on the launch team for a new book written by one of my favorite authors, Jen Hatmaker.  Her book “For The Love” releases tomorrow and is just wonderful.  I can’t wait to tell you all about it!

Chad’s dad and uncle came out in April to help us finish our basement.  They also helped with the garden fence and seeding our “yard” while they were here.  Charlie and Jim affectionately refer to that visit as their time in our Labor Camp.

20150427_101630

This was just one of the 3 rooms they worked on. As you can see, they had a lot of work to do!

Our turkeys and ducks arrived in May, and boy were they adorable!  The ducks are still adorable but the turkeys… Well, they look like turkeys.

Baby turkeys are the cutest, but they don't stay still long enough to get a clear photo.

Baby turkeys are the cutest, but they don’t stay still long enough to get a clear photo.

20150501_111108  Baby turkeys are the cutest!

20150429_175803

Look at this little duck! So cute!

July was crazy busy!  We adopted the cutest Great Pyrenees puppies to guard our birds.  Gene came over and harvested our field grass to feed Jolene and the cows this winter.  We had a BIG Brown family reunion during Cheyenne Frontier Days.  Wheat harvest began and brought with it the return of harvest suppers in the field.

20150705_175545 (1)

Bonnie and Clyde

20150717_145452

Raking and baling grass hay in Jolene’s pasture.

20150720_122310

Cheyenne Frontier Days – The Daddy of ’em All

20150731_182559

Harvest suppers are one of my new favorite traditions!

Got {Goat} Milk?

“I have a jar of fresh goat’s milk (that I milked from my goat this morning!) in my fridge and I am super excited about it!!  Like totally geeked out, ridiculously, unnaturally excited.  I really hope I like goat milk because if I don’t, it’s really going to burst my bubble.  Did I mention that I milked my goat this morning?!  I. MILKED. MY. GOAT.  Because I have a dairy goat.  And I milk her.  Because I am now a farmer’s wife.  My inner city girl is just losing her mind over this new development.  Like, totally losing her mind.”

20150310_062834-MOTION

From goat to fridge in just a few minutes. I’m still geeking out over it.

It has been about a month since I posted the above paragraph on my Facebook page, and here I am, still amazed at the fact that I have dairy goats and we milk them.  I’m amazed that I actually like goat milk.  It gets a bad rap so I was very nervous to try it, but it tastes like milk.  There was no “goaty” or “musty” taste I’ve heard so many people talk about, it was just cold, creamy milk. It’s crazy that can drink fresh goats milk just hours after I have milked it from my goat.  I realize this is getting redundant, but I’m still trying to wrap my head around all of this.  One year ago I never would have imagined I’d be living in the country and milking goats!

The craziest thing is, I love all of this!  I love raising goats.  I love milking goats.  I love finding recipes for my fresh goat milk.  I love the fact that we just ordered a bunch of cheese making ingredients and equipment.  I do not love waking up before the sun to milk my goats, but I do love the routine of milking.  Even on days when Cloudy will not stop kicking long enough for me to get two good draws into the pail, or when Cora refuses to get up on the stanchion and I have to call Chad out to help, the act of milking is just enjoyable.

When I walk into the house before sunrise with a pail of milk that I’ve gathered myself I just feel accomplished (especially if I’ve had to deal with a grumpy goat to get it).  I feel like I now have something tangible to show for the hard work I’ve put in over the last few months.  I have fed and cared for these goats, provided them with everything they needed for safe delivery of their kids, and now I get to reap the rewards.

20150311_153450

So. Much. Goat. Milk. I literally don’t know what to do with all of this…

Now that I have all this fresh goat milk I can finally try out some fun recipes.  I’ve made two batches of fudge.  The first batch didn’t turn out but the second one was creamy and delicious.  I’ve made cajeta, which is (supposed to be) a pourable caramel sauce, but I ended up with a soft chewy candy.  Even though it wasn’t the right consistency it was still yummy enough for Maddie and I to fight over the mixing spoon!

We’ve discovered that goat’s milk makes the most rich and delicious chocolate milk.  It is far better than chocolate milk made with store bought milk.  Even Chad likes it!  Right now my favorite goat milk product is coffee creamer.  I make it with vanilla and cinnamon and it is so rich and sweet and creamy.  It really magnifies my coffee addiction and it’s hard for me to stop at two cups of coffee in the morning.

20150310_130330

The beginning of the creamiest, most delicious coffee creamer ever made.

I have a few more dessert recipes I’d like to try, but our next goat milk venture will be cheesemaking!  We just ordered all of the necessary ingredients and equipment to make several batches of various soft cheeses. This is the project that I’m most excited about!  I love cheese, and the fact that I can make my own goat cheese from milk produced by my own goats is just about too much for me to handle.  I will probably throw a party (or at least dance around my kitchen like a dork) when my first batch of cheese is successful!

Raise the goats, milk the goats, make the cheese, feed my people!  How did my life ever become so awesome?!

Just Kidding!

We purchased two pregnant dairy goats last fall and have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of their goat kids for the last four moths.  In the weeks leading up to their due dates we began preparing for kidding.  We put up two kidding pens in the tack room and I read all about how to recognize the signs of labor and what to expect during kidding.  Even though our does are experienced mamas, and everything I read assured me that I should have nothing to worry about, I worried about everything.  “How would I know if mama was in distress?  How in the world would I know if the kid needed to be turned?  Would I really have to stick my hand in there and check?  What if I did something wrong and the kid died?  What if the mama died?  I am never going to be able to handle this!”  I was worrying myself sick.

40297d480bf68dca6d618b24e3c2cb48

Diagrams like this, while incredibly helpful, just added to my stress. How does one know the difference between front and back feet?! (Photo credit: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/164874036333794963/)

At the end of January I could tell Cloudy was close to kidding so I began checking her twice a day for signs of labor.  On February 4th, I checked Cloudy during morning chores and didn’t see much difference, so I went off to Cheyenne for a MOPS meeting and some errands.  When I arrived home at lunch time Chad said Cloudy looked like she was ready to go and we should move her into the kidding pen.  We decided to have lunch first and when we went outside about an hour later, we found Cloudy cleaning off a little white and black ball of legs and fur.  All that worrying for nothing!  Cloudy took care of herself and her little buckling without any “help” from her silly humans.  Look at that little guy!  Isn’t he adorable?!  Maddie has named him “Oreo” and we are all totally smitten with him.

IMG_20150204_152653

Mama Cloudy looking after newborn Oreo.

IMG_20150208_214745

Our very first farm baby!!

IMG_20150209_132847

This little guy is going to be soooo spoiled!

Less than a week later, on the morning of February 10th, I went out to do the milking and found Cora with not one but TWO little kids!  Once again, things worked out without any “help” from me.  Cora had one  doeling and one buckling, and they are so cute and tiny.  They are always together and love to cuddle when they sleep.  Kiersten has named the doeling “Strawberry”.  Chad says I can’t keep both bucklings, so we have promised Strawberry’s brother to some friends and they have named him “Chocolate Chip”.  I love when kids name the animals, you never know what you’re going to get!

IMG_20150210_183442

Chocolate Chip & Strawberry cuddling just a few hours after they were born.

20150214_094722

Strawberry appears to be a little camera shy.

20150214_094646

Mama Cora is expressing her dislike for the paparazzi.

Now we have three adorable little kids, and fresh goat milk!

Harvest

We arrived in Pine Bluffs on Sunday, July 27.  In a normal year, that would have put us right in the middle of harvest.  But this summer, it rained.  It usually doesn’t rain that much in the summer here, but it sure did this summer.  By the end of harvest, we realized that there was not any two week stretch without rain.

Harvest this year was also different in that the only other times I have been here for harvest was when I was a kid growing up.  Back then, harvest meant hop in a car and drive for 18 hours, get out and play for a week or so while the parents actually worked.  Well, now that I am one of the parents, harvest is actually work!

Some yellow peas that are being fed to the pigs.

Some yellow peas that are being fed to the pigs.

With most of the West in a drought, it would seem that rain would be welcomed.  And it would, just not during harvest.  Instead of having a two-to-three week harvest, it turned into a marathon two month harvest.  The rain caused a couple of things; the grain to get wet, and for the weeds to grow.  Both of which make the crop un-harvestable.  If the grain is harvested wet, then it will mold and spoil when put into storage.  If it is harvested with weeds, then it will not be the quality needed to be sold.  So either way, harvest was delayed.

But when we were able to harvest, it sure was pretty awesome.  Harvest mornings started meeting out at the field to see if the grain was dry enough to harvest.  If they were, then we would service the combines.  Servicing the combines meant checking oil, filling up with fuel, and lubricating the grease zerks.  Once the combines were serviced, then it was time to get to work and drive!

Driving a combine means going around in big circles, or going back and forth in lines, at a whopping pace of about 6 miles per hour.   One would think this would be easy, and it definitely got easier as time went on but, for the first few days, it was pretty nerve wracking. 

My view for quite a few hours this summer.

My view for quite a few hours this summer.

I kept thinking that with every mistake, I’m going to break this machine!  The main thing to worry about is to go just fast enough to keep the machine full (not too fast or you can plug it), make sure the header is out of the dirt, and try and go in as straight of a line as possible.

Well, this summer, I plugged the machines at least three times.  I ran the header into the dirt and bent some metal pretty good.  And, while I thought I was going straight, once I turned around I realized any of my three kids could probably drive in a better line than the one I took.  But I had a blast the whole time.  Theresa brought me lunch one day and she became bored after 5 minutes of riding along in the combine, but I didn’t get bored at all the whole harvest.  It was nice seeing the progress every day with a sense of being productive. 

The last load of oats for the year.

The last load of oats for the year.

After all the delays of rain, we finally got done with summer grain harvest in mid October.  Now all that was left was corn and sunflowers.  The three combines that we were using had to be reconfigured for the these two crops.  We started corn harvest on October 25.  11 days later we had combined over 1,200 acres of corn!  By now, the weather had started to change and get a little colder.  By colder, I mean there were days when it didn’t reach 32 degrees. 

With corn done, the last crop of the harvest year was sunflower.  The first field was started on

The last load of sunflowers! The very last load of the 2014 harvest!

The last load of sunflowers! The very last load of the 2014 harvest!

November 6.  At 7:00pm on November 11, we finished the last field of sunflowers.  In 5 days we had harvested over 800 acres!  And it is a good thing that we finished when we did.  On November 12, the low temp was -14 and the high was 6!  My first full harvest season was completed!!

Harvest season was long, 3 and a half months, and I worked a ton of hours, about 60-70 a week, but I am already looking forward to it next year.  And I’ll be here for planting so I’ll get to see all the crops grow, which I’m really excited about!

Farm Animals

We’ve added quite a few animals since my last blog post so I thought I’d give you all an update on our furry and feathered friends.

20140907_154339Chickens

Back in late August, Chad came across an ad for chickens on craiglist and in true Chad fashion he said, “Call this lady and let’s go look at these chickens.” I was planning on acquiring chickens sometime next spring so I was a little on the fence about this one, but we went and saw the chickens.  They were beautiful birds, the family was moving, and selling off their flock and a couple of their coops so before I knew it we had purchased 2 coops, 1 rooster, 5 columbian wyandotte hens, 1 black sex link hen, and 18 feather-legged bantams.  Da Browns do not to anything on a small scale!!  The next weekend we arranged to pick up the birds and the coops.  We had this idea that loading the coops onto a flat bed truck, securing them, driving home, building fence for the chicken run, and returning to pick up the chickens would take just a few hours. You know, pick up the coops at 9:00am go back and get the chickens around noon and then wait for Gene (our cousin, the real farmer) to arrive with a crane truck to put the coops in position some time that afternoon.

20140921_085627WRONG!!  This process took ALL. FREAKING. DAY.  While the guys were getting the coops in place, Maddie and I went to pick up the chickens, in my minivan.  In one afternoon my suburban soccer mom van became a livestock transportation vehicle.

We started out with 25 chickens, but we are down to 17.  It turns out that our beloved Benito, the world’s best family dog, the dog who allows babies to crawl all over him, the dog who gently shares donut holes with toddlers, the dog who allows all sorts of riding, poking, pulling, and reaching into his food bowl while he’s eating, is a vicious chicken killer.  I do not understand this dark transformation he goes through when he sees an unprotected chicken!  His inner hunter comes out and the poor chicken doesn’t stand a chance.  At last count he killed 5 chickens; 2 of the beautiful wyandottes and 3 bantams.  We lost 1 bantam to “natural causes”.  I’m not sure what else to call it because she was fine in the morning, but dead in the afternoon.  And we’ve lost 2 bantams to the cold.  There is no escaping the circle of life when you live on a farm.

Here’s the really interesting thing about chickens: I do not like them.  I like the idea of chickens, I like the looks of them, and I love their eggs.  But as an animal, they are not my favorite.  They’re not too bright and they’re kind of stinky.  My absolute least favorite chore is cleaning out chicken coops.  It’s just so gross!  Cleaning out the chicken coops should require a hazmat suit. Gloves and a face mask will have to do for now.  Despite my lack of chicken love, I doubt we’ll ever be without them.  Chad is already researching breeds and planning for next spring’s chicks.

The picture below left is of our Phoenix Rooster.  His name is Fawkes.  My fellow Harry Potter fans should appreciate that. 😉 The other picture is of one of our Columbian Wyandotte hens.  I wish I could tell you her name but I cannot tell those hens apart.

20140908_091506IMG_20140908_103547

Goats

IMG_20141026_174641

Are these not the cutest goats?! Cora is on the left and Cloudy is on the right. I just love them!

I knew that I eventually wanted a couple of dairy goats because they are so cute!  And who doesn’t love the idea of making their own goat cheese?!  I mentioned this fact to Rachel (Gene’s daughter) and she got very excited at the idea of having dairy goats around again.  When Rachel was in her early teens she raised dairy goats and meat goats for show and for sale, so she knows a lot about goats.  She has a friend that runs a goat dairy in Scott’s Bluff, NE that was looking to sell off some of her herd.  We went out there and struck a deal for two certified dairy goats, and even arranged to have them bred before we brought them home.  So we actually bought two pregnant goats.  Once again, Da Browns do not do anything on a small scale!  They’ve been with us about 6 weeks and they are so much fun!  They have so much personality and they just love to be around us. 

Here’s a funny story to help illustrate the personalities of these silly goats.  The first night they spent with us, Chad’s parents were visiting and his dad heard a lot of noise out on our deck.  He went to investigate and when he turned on the porch light, the goats were standing outside the sliding glass door just looking into the house.  I’m quite sure they were looking for the people with the food.  They practically race across their pen at feeding time, which is funny because they literally spend every waking second eating.  And when standing to eat gets to be too much, they lay down and eat.  They’ve gained so much weight that they now have chipmunk cheeks.  They absolutely love when the girls feed them veggies or oats and they’re relatively gentle, until they mistake a little finger for a carrot. Since winter arrived Jolene has been bunking with the goats and they’ve all become quite good friends.

IMG_20140919_103513

My little Bruno pup when I first brought him home. He was so tiny!

Bruno

Let me just preface this by saying that I am the type of person who stays far away from animal shelters, because I want to bring all the animals home.  All of them.  So when my husband casually says, “Evan has a litter of puppies and he says you can have one,” that is the only green light I need.  I went out to meet Evan and the puppies, and I had to use my Country Google Map.  You see, the cell coverage out here is spotty and as soon as I drive into Nebraska I lose signal.  Gene was nice enough to highlight a map with all the important houses and fields, so when Chad says, “I’m at 16 and 13,” I know where to deliver his lunch.  Anyway, I went out to pick out a puppy and offered a few of my chickens as payment, but we settled on two 50lb bags of dog food instead.  Who needs money when you can barter with goods?  That experience made me feel very country!

bennybruno

The first few weeks were a little iffy, but now Benito and Bruno are buddies.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about having a puppy out here is you don’t take him to the vet unless you have to.  You give him his wormer meds and vaccinations yourself!  I have two doses of wormer just chilling in my fridge right now.  (In fact, typing this reminded me that today is wormer day so I took a break and gave Bruno his meds.)  You can buy the 5 way booster vaccine at the feed store for approximately $8 and inject it yourself.  This is still crazy to me.  I don’t remember the feed stores in Vegas selling dog vaccines. (Yes, there are feed stores in Vegas, and yes, we visited them.)  You do have to take your dog in for the rabies vaccine because it can only be administered by a veterinarian, but there’s no taking the puppy in for a check up.  You only take the puppy in if he’s sick, or if you discover he has round worm.  I’m not even going to explain that one to you.  It’s just too gross.

jo

Now that’s a pretty palomino!

Jolene

Jo is not a new addition, but I thought I’d give you a little update.  I have learned a lot about horses in the last four months, but I wasn’t prepared for how long it would take for Jolene and I to feel like a cohesive team when I’m in the saddle.  I guess I had this silly notion that all I would need to know is the basics of riding and everything else would be a breeze.  Well, that’s not entirely true, the rider/horse relationship is much deeper than simply giving and following commands.  You have to build trust and learn to read and understand each other, and that process takes time.  We don’t get to ride nearly as often as I’d like because I can’t just saddle her up and head out if Chad is at work and nobody is here to watch the kids, but our rides are getting better and we are learning how to work as a team.

Last month, we were out on a really nice ride around our property and I was very pleased with how Jolene and I were communicating, when she suddenly decided to change directions without being asked.  It didn’t take me long to realize that we were trotting right into the path of a rattlesnake!  And Jolene handled it so calmly, she just snorted and turned to the right to lead us out of harm’s way.  I, on the other hand, completely freaked out.  Haha!  I’m sure there were some swear words involved, but then I realized that my horse is amazing and reacted better than I could’ve expected.  So I immediately began praising her and we headed back to the house because I was too freaked out continue riding after our snake encounter.  I know, I’m a wuss, but those things are scary.  Needless to say, Jolene earned quite a few cookies that day!

20141109_165418

I wish photos could truly capture the beauty of the Wyoming sky at dusk.

Transitions

sunsetSo we had planned to have a blog post every two weeks.  Well that hasn’t happened.  Oh well.  We have now been here just a few days short of 3 months.  That seems weird.  Some days I wake up and think, “I’m in Wyoming” and it is weird.  I lived in California for the first 18 years of my life, and then Nevada for the next 17.  But that’s not what this post is about.  It is about my perception on how the family has transitioned from living in Henderson to living in Pine Bluffs. 

The Girls

It seems that the girls (my 3 daughters) have really transitioned extremely well.  I did not expect anything else, but it is nice seeing them adjusting so well to living out here.  One of the big changes that kids have embraced is being outside.  They have never spent this much time outside.  It doesn’t seem to matter what they are doing, they just like being outdoors.  And yes, they could have been outside more in Vegas, but they didn’t have the space we do now.  They explore, they use their imagination, they just spend time out of the house.  I’m grateful for them having that chance.

bus

The bus picks Maddie up from our driveway. It’s very helpful during our hectic mornings.

Madelyn is now in third grade.  One thing that Theresa and I talked about while in Vegas was that if we ever did move, we wanted to do it soon so that Madelyn would get into a new school while in early elementary.  We thought that she could adapt better at a younger age.  Well, she has made the transition better than imagined.  Maybe we underestimate the resilience of kids, but she walked into her new school like she had been going there for 4 years.  She is excelling in school work, has a few friends, and thoroughly enjoys riding the bus every day.  I will remind her of that when she is 16 and wants to drive!

Kiersten and Sadie will never remember living in Henderson, and I’m actually kind of bummed about that.  They have transitioned perfectly.  Kiersten is good at spotting dead mice and birds, and likes to smash stink bugs with rocks.  We have to keep an eye on Kiersten though as she has been found in the horse pasture walking about 2 feet behind Jolene.  That could turn out bad.  Sadie loves being around the goats and chickens.  Theresa thought it would be a good idea to let Sadie carry an egg back to the house.  Well, it was a good idea, until the last two feet!  Oh well, they will lay another egg tomorrow. 

Theresa

When we started telling people that we were moving to Wyoming, almost everyone asked if Theresa could handle the weather.  Of course she can.  It is going to be cold.  She knows that.  She might not enjoy it, but she can handle it.  The weather never really worried me with Theresa.   What worried me was friends and family.  In the almost 7 years that I have known Theresa, I have witnessed her develop some amazing friends.  She is a social person and living 8 miles from town could pose a problem.  But she is making friends.  It is what she does.  Sometimes I get envious how easy she makes it seem.  As I write this, she is in Cheyenne having dessert with some girls.  While she left some amazing friends, I know that she will find friends here as well. 

By far, this is the farthest that Theresa has lived from her family.  Our house in Henderson was about the farthest she had lived from them and it was only about a 4 minute drive to their house.  Knowing this concerned me a lot, and still is on my mind.  Moving away from the comfort of family can be tough.  I did it when I was 18 and knew everything, so I have gotten used to living away from my family.  It wasn’t until after college that I really appreciated having family near by.  Theresa’s mom made the drive out with us on the move.  After a week here, we had to take her to Denver so she could fly back.  It was hard on me dropping her off at the airport, I can only imagine how hard it was on Theresa.  She seems to be doing ok though being this far from her family.  We just found out they are coming for Thanksgiving, so that is pretty cool. 

Me

Working up to 72 hours a week doing manual labor is hard.  I was not prepared for that.  I thought I was.  I told people I was.  I was not.  I worked the last 6 years sitting at a desk working from a computer.  I would do small projects around the house like build garden beds or build a chicken coop.  Yeah, I wish I could do those small projects now! 

Tractor

This thing tops out at about 10 miles per hour. It makes driving on the highway very interesting!

 

Even though we have been here just about 3 months, some of the things I thought were different when I got here almost seem mundane now.  I need to tell myself that they are not for 99% of the population.  I have driven a tractor on a 4 lane highway.  I was pretty sure my cousin was pulling my leg when he told me to do that.  Nope.  I have driven a combine on the highway.  Thought it was crazy the first time, now it is no big deal.  I need to do a better job of chronicling things that I do.  While something I do may be run of the mill to me now, it is still different for a lot of people.

I don’t miss living in Henderson.  But I do miss things about Henderson.  I miss my friends.  I miss the restaurants.  I miss playing darts in my garage.  I miss my church there.  I miss my Sunday Bible study.  I miss having babysitters so Theresa and I could go on date nights.  I miss bowling in a league. 

I know over time, I will develop friends here.  We will find restaurants just like we found them in Vegas.  There is a bowling alley here, so I should join a team.  We have been to a Church twice and I like it.  We will make this home but it will take time.  It took time in Henderson.  I love it here.  While it still seems weird that I live here, I wouldn’t change it.  We are blessed beyond belief.  Good things are going to keep happening to Da Browns.  I have faith.

Benny

Licking his chops after a nice cow pie for breakfast.

Licking his chops after a nice cow pie for breakfast.

Benny has probably made the best transition out of all.  He loves being outside again.  He is outside most of the day.  He has also lost about 20 pounds, which is pretty impressive if you had seen him before the move.  One thing that he loves is that the field across the road had a herd of cows there this summer.  We would watch him go through our barbed wire fence, then go through that field’s barbed wire fence, looking for something.  He has discovered his favorite food over there: cow pies.  Yep, every morning, Benito marches over there to survey the goods.

So I think my family is transitioning well.  The kids are very happy, Theresa is doing what she does and making friends, and I am adjusting to a lot more manual labor that I had been used to.

Why?

20140908_190030

Why??

That seems to be what everybody ask’s when I tell them that I left Las Vegas for Pine Bluffs, WY.  Why not seems more appropriate to me.  But that really is too simplistic of an answer, and I’m sure there are plenty of reasons not to move to Wyoming for 95% of the people that have asked why.  Here are some of the reasons, and by no means all of them, that played into us leaving a city of 2 million people, for a town of 1,250 people.  These are in no particular order.

“It’s in my blood”

I’m pretty sure that Theresa will never let me live that quote down.  So a couple of years ago, we visited Pine Bluffs.  It was Theresa’s first time in Wyoming, and she fell in love with it.  What’s not to love about wide open spaces with perfect weather and no traffic*?  So after a week of seeing rural life up close and personal, we went down to Denver.  After seeing maybe 2 cars a day on the road in Pine Bluffs, Denver traffic was basically Las Vegas in the mountains.  In one short week, we had realized how much traffic annoyed us.  Throughout the week in Denver, we talked about how nice it would be to raise our girls in a town like Pine Bluffs.

At the end of our trip in Denver, we went to a surprise party for my Uncle.  After maybe one too many Banquet Beers, I told my cousin that if he ever had a job opening on his farm, I would love the opportunity to work with him.  I’m sure he asked a question along the lines of why I thought I would make a good farmer, and boom, I said, “It’s in my blood.”  I don’t know if it really is or not, as neither of my parents are farmers, and their parents weren’t either, but that night I was sure that it was in my blood. 

All joking aside, those 2 weeks set into motion the thought of possibly leaving Las Vegas for a rural environment. 

And while farming might not be in my blood per se, one cool thing about moving to Wyoming is that I am only 43 miles from where my dad grew up, LaGrange, Wyoming.  In LaGrange, my Grandpa was the town butcher, and my Grandma the town nurse.  The butcher shop was in the front of the house.  Now that building is a grocery store and cafe.  So when visiting LaGrange, a person can eat lunch in my Grandparents living room.

Also, we are only 76 miles from where my Grandparents are laid to rest.  I can clearly remember visiting them every summer from an early age.  The cities of Gering/Scotts Bluff were big when I was 10.  The first time Theresa and I drove up there a few weeks back I actually noticed the population.  It is 23,000, for both cities, combined.  Amazing how growing up changes perspective.  But the best ice cream is still found at the Platte Valley Creamery in Scotts Bluff.  Amazing stuff. 20140905_142829

The Girls

Looking back, I could not have asked for a better place to grow up than Quincy.  While I’m sure I complained about how small it was while living there, I’ve come to realize it was an amazing place to grow up.  While living in Las Vegas, I never really imagined raising a family there.  I envisioned something along the lines of Quincy.

Pine Bluffs is pretty close to Quincy, at least in terms of size and community.  One benefit of raising kids in a small town is sports.  If we were to stay in Las Vegas, the odds of any of my girls making a high school sports team is pretty slim.  Here in Pine Bluffs, I’m confident that if they choose to play sports when they are older, they can make the team.  While growing up in Quincy I was able to play 3 sports in high school, soccer, basketball, and tennis.  Now I wasn’t very good at any of them, but that didn’t matter, I made the team!  If I was to grow up in a city, I doubt I would have made the team in any of those sports. 

Another way Pine Bluffs is like Quincy is that everybody knows each other.  As a 16-year in Quincy, I was not a fan of that.  As a dad of 3 girls, I think its awesome.  One night in Quincy as I was heading home, I was pulled over for a headlight being out.  I was given a fix-it ticket and told to head home, about a 2 minute drive.  When I get home, my dad asked why I was pulled over.  Some neighbor had seen me pulled over and called my parents to let them know.  I hope to get similar experiences here in Pine Bluffs as my girls get older. 

4-H was a big part of growing up in a small town for me as well.  I met some pretty amazing people in 4-H and have stayed in contact with many of them for almost 20 years (that’s sad and crazy to think about).  I look forward to my girls being active in the local 4-H club.  Madelyn has already picked out what she wants to participate in this year; shooting, archery, cake decorating, and crocheting.  I am kind of bummed that she doesn’t want to raise a pig, but hey, at least she wants to learn to be a good shot!

Self Worth

Ever since Theresa and I got married, I have wanted to have a job that my kids would be proud of their dad having.  My last two jobs, I did not feel that way.  I know this is completely an issue of mine, but it’s how I felt.  When I would get home from work, one or two kids would ask what I did.  99% of the time the answer was the same thing, I worked on a computer.  I had a  feeling that while I was being paid to work, I wasn’t doing anything.  While I was paid pretty well to work in the gaming industry, at the end of each day I felt as if I had nothing to show for what I did.  I longed to do something tangible every day.

Since the move out here 6 weeks ago, there isn’t a day that has gone by where I don’t feel like I accomplished something.  Maybe it was helping brand cattle, or combine wheat, or swath alfalfa, it has always been something.  Even on my days off, Theresa and I are doing something.  This past weekend, we bought 25 chickens.  While we thought this would be a 2 hour job to just go pick them up, it turned into an all day event building fence and getting the coops into just the right spot.  At the end of the day, I did something, and my kids helped and I could see how proud they were that something was accomplished as a family.

We can do it Better

Raising pigs has not always been a factory job.  Just 25 miles from our house though, a subsidiary of Hormel has a huge pig factory.  The sows are bred and farrow there in Wyoming, then the piglets are shipped to either Iowa or California to fatten up.  They never see the light of day.  There is a better way to farm.

We are going to raise pigs like our grandparents used to, well maybe not my grandparents, but like that generation did.  Our pigs will be outside, they will get to root around like pigs, they get to stand on dirt and not metal grates.  They will be fed barley and yellow peas.  I don’t know enough about GMO’s to be for or against them, but if there is a way to feed my pigs non-GMO, then I’m all about it. 

20140902_175734

One of our Hereford sows, Miss Polka Dot. She’s about 300 pounds and is as sweet as can be. She runs over as soon as she sees me and enjoys a good scratch behind her ears.

And we are raising heritage pigs.  The pork in stores now is said to be “the other white meat”.  Well, I don’t want another white meat, I want pork like how it used to be before it was cross bred to be dried out chicken breast type meat.  Theresa and I bought half a Berkshire pig in Las Vegas.  It was far and away the best pork we had ever had.  Now we have a bred Berkshire sow so we know that the meat we are raising will taste superior to what’s in the market. 

So there are some of the thoughts that played into us moving.  It definitely was a decision that was not taken lightly.  We left a great group of friends that took years to build, a great Church that we miss every week, and the comfort of family close by.  But in the end, we fell that this is the right decision for our family.

*When we visited in 2012, it was July and hot, at least hot for Wyoming standards.  Just this past week, we got the first snow of the season, on September 11.  Crazy, snow in summer.  I’m sure that if Theresa visited any other time of year than summer, it would have been a much more difficult decision to move!! 😉

Country Lessons

For our very first blog post, I thought I’d share some lessons I learned the hard way during our first month in the country.    

Moving from the city to the country can be quite a culture shock.  I know I’ve done a few things in the last few weeks that have made the locals shake their heads at the silly city girl, but 30+ years of city habits are hard to break!  Here are some things I’ve learned, in no particular order.

1. It takes a conscious effort to not lock my car when I’m in town or out in a field.  I think the locals leave their keys in the ignition while going about their business, but I’m not there yet.

2. When visiting your husband in a wheat field, go ahead and leave your keys in your minivan while you take a ride in the combine.  Nobody is going to steal your van out of the middle of a wheat field.  If your city brain takes over and you put your keys in your pocket, you will lose them in the middle of said wheat field.  Looking for your keys will cause all harvesting to stop and your husband will not be pleased.  Then it will start pouring rain and you’ll be cursing yourself as you wait inside the minivan for the rain to stop, but you will be thankful that you did not lock the car.  Luckily, the rain was a blessing in disguise and your cousin will be the hero of the day when he finally finds your keys in the middle of the muddy field.

3. I’m a huge fan of the skinny jeans tucked into cowboy boots look.  It’s so cute and so trendy.  However, I have discovered that it’s not a very functional fashion on the farm.  For example, while you are traipsing through a wheat field and the tall weeds along the perimeter of the field, looking for car keys, you will get all sorts of spiky burs and evil little poky plant pieces stuck between your skinny jeans and boots.  It will not feel nice.  So here’s my advice: when you are working on an actual farm, wear bootcut jeans over your super cute cowboy boots.

4. Minivans, and their tires, were not made to drive out into fields.  Minivans can handle gravel roads, but those tires cannot handle fields.  Delivering lunch to your husband out in the middle of a field will almost surely end in a flat tire.

Jolene

5. I’ve loved horses my whole life, and I’m pretty sure I asked my parents for a horse (or riding lessons) for every birthday and Christmas of my childhood.  It never happened.  My experience with horses is limited to visits with friend’s horses or the occasional over-priced trail ride.  To say I’ve learned a lot about horses during this month is an understatement.  The biggest lesson, which is perhaps the most obvious, is that horses are fast!!  Up until a few days ago I had never been on a horse that was moving faster than a walk, so I was really surprised (and scared) to discover how fast Jolene lopes.  I know I sound really dumb, but seriously, it really took me by surprise.  However, I may now be addicted and Jolene may be stuck loping everywhere forever.

6. It will take your horse less than two weeks to discover that her electric fence is not charged.  Then one day, while you are in the middle of feeding dinner to your 3 kids, you will look out the kitchen window and notice that your lovely, adorable, sweet horse is on the wrong side of her fence.  You will instruct your 7-year-old daughter to finish feeding her sisters and you will run out to the tack room, confident that shaking the cookie jar will entice your sweet pony to trot up to you so you can put her away.  Wrong!  Once your rude, obnoxious, spoiled brat of a horse gets out onto the road she will stop and look at you, just long enough for you to get close enough to think you’ve won, and then she will turn and trot off.  She will make her way to the neighbor’s (about 1/4 mile up the road) and realize that she cannot get out of their yard so she will reluctantly allow you to catch her.  Then she will want a cookie and she will pout the whole way home when you refuse to give her one.

build fence

Building an electric fence for Jo

7. The next day you will put her back in her pasture, sure that last night’s escape was a total fluke.  Then you will be FaceTiming with your sister and you will actually catch your little punk horse in the act of escaping.  This will cause you to run out of the house and across the field in your socks so you can push the beast back into her pasture before she gets her back legs over the fence.  Then you will scream at your daughter to bring your boots and the halter so you can take that bratty horse back to her corral until you can get a fencer.

8. Approximately two days after you install the fencer, your horse will totally freak when you try to bring her through the pasture gate.  Her eyes will get as wide as pancakes and she will run through the gate, terrified of getting bitten by the fence.  It is then that you will know that she tried to escape and got zapped, and you will look at her terrified face and you will say, “That’s what you get for being a naughty horse.”  And when you have her safely tucked away in her corral for the night, you will give her a cookie and apologize for that mean fence, and you will explain that it’s really for her protection and that you love her, and you will be sure she understands every word you just said.

9. I’m going to take a minute to apologize for all of the future comments, posts, and pictures of the sky and the clouds. Never in my life have I been in a place where you can see the sky for miles and miles without anything interrupting the view.  The sky is so blue and the clouds are so white, I just cannot stop staring at them, or talking about them, or posting about them. And don’t even get me started on sunsets and storm clouds…

10530929_10203689558414710_6163857432442556121_n

See what I mean about sunsets and storm clouds? Amazing!

10. Leaving family and friends behind was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  I miss them terribly, but there’s a peace that comes with knowing you made the right decision for your family and that you are where you’re supposed to be.  I truly love it here and I feel right at home, like this is the life I was always supposed to lead.  I can’t wait to see what the future holds for us!  Except for winter.  I’m sure I could do without that. 😉