I’ve loved horses for as long as I can remember. Cows? Not so much. I’d had over-the-fence encounters with cows, some good, some not-so-good, and hadn’t quite made up my mind about them in general.
But several years ago I began to have an interest in having a cow. I mean, wouldn’t it be a lot like having a horse but, in the end, you get milk? And cream? And butter?
But with just under two acres fenced in we didn’t have enough land and we didn’t have enough grass…
And the biggest reason? I didn’t have enough knowhow.
With my 49th birthday looming, I was becoming more and more determined not to let fear stand in my way of pursuing the things that were on my heart. I began researching cows, different breeds and what their specific needs would be. There was so much information to sift through, and the learning curve was so steep.
But about a year later, at the beginning of 2018, I stumbled on a unique and rare breed, with eyes to positively drown in.
The miniature Jersey.
Beautiful and much like their full-height counterpart, the miniature Jersey matures around 38″-42″ and requires significantly fewer resources to maintain. It is said that, compared to a full-sized Jersey, minis require 1/3 of the feed, 1/3 of the land, and produce just 1/3 of the poop. But 75% of the milk.
And have you ever seen a miniature Jersey? Gah. I was honestly hooked as soon as I saw those doe-like eyes, chunky legs and diminutive stature. The biggest hindrance at this point, besides the difficulty in even finding one for sale, was convincing my husband. Because, as mentioned above, miniature Jerseys are rare. And hard to find. And, you guessed it, not cheap.
After collecting more information, and speaking to several people with minis to sell, I was able to go to him with some valid reasons for thinking getting one of these little beauties might be worth it.
2. Future calves
4. Having a storybook animal traipsing all over our pasture
5. Ice cream
Also, I was turning 50 and kinda sorta wanted nothing but a cow.
My search had narrowed to several very well-respected breeders of well-bred, well-handled family milk cows and one specifically helped explain to me why we, as complete milking rookies, really needed to find a cow that was no beginner. This made the search even harder as most of the animals for sale were young calves or just bred for their first calf (read: never been milked).
Most folks want to hang onto their cows, especially the well-seasoned and good producing ones, and so the waiting and watching and praying continued.
In early May, after countless hours spent online, visiting a mini Jersey farm, numerous conversations with breeders and those in the know, I reached out to one of the most well-respected breeders in the country and asked, one more time, if she had anything that might work for us. She sent me pictures of yearling heifers and one lovely cow with just three quarters, but nothing that made me swoon. And how I wanted to swoon! Then she sent me a picture of a red and white painted cow. She had the fullest winter coat; I could hardly tell it was a cow and not a teddy bear. But her eyes…. under all that hair, they were simply lovely.
The breeder said this cow was well-bred, had been a 4-H calf and was pregnant with her third calf, basically a seasoned professional. BUT she had already been promised to someone else. The breeder went on to say that, if we were really *really* interested, she would be willing to ask this other buyer (who was also very seasoned cow owner) if they would be willing to consider buying a younger heifer instead of this cow, understanding that we desperately needed the experience of this cow and the other buyer did not.
I asked her for more pictures, something without her thick winter coat on, and she sent me a picture of the cutest cow I’ve ever seen.
I fell completely and totally in love – and determined to do anything in my power to make her mine. Most of all, I prayed that the Lord would bring the perfect little family cow into my life, whether it was this cow or not.
After talking at length to Chris about her and, I’m quite sure, him seeing how ridiculously smitten I was with her, he agreed. Then we told the breeder we wanted her and we waited. She was headed out of town and would not be able to contact the other buyer until the next week. More waiting.
On May 21 I received a short message from the breeder via Facebook…
“Sarah is yours!”
It felt like a dream come true. On July 21st she arrived, delivered to the top of our driveway at 11 o’clock at night, in the middle of an absolute deluge. All the way from Nebraska.
And even more beautiful in person than I could have imagined.
But isn’t that just like our God? He gives infinitely more that we can ask or imagine. It was a birthday gift unlike any other.
And she wasn’t going to just jump head-first into pet ownership like a crazy person.
She needed time to research. Gather information and experiences of others to best determine which little critter would be the perfect little love for her.
First she thought she wanted a rabbit.
Then she thought she wanted a hedgehog.
Then she thought she wanted a guinea pig.
Then she considered a bearded dragon, a chinchilla, and a sugar glider.
And then she came back to a rabbit.
In her research, she located the name of a rabbit farm less than an hour away. And she honed in on their facebook page, which listed each individual baby bunny available.
Less than a week later, we were standing on that little bunny farm, picking out a bunny for Sophie, and a bunny for Vivienne (who had recently joined Sophie in her quest for a pet).
Sophie chose a tiny, harlequin Lionhead girl out of a litter of six.
And Vivienne chose a spunky, only-child Dwarf Netherland, Dutch mix girl.
Neither should grow to weigh more than five pounds at maturity.
The last few years have found us keeping our kiddos close, due mostly to Clementine’s initial surprise diagnosis and resulting surgery, as well as Magnolia’s heart surgery and artificial valve placement (putting them both in the “fragile” category for a season).
But last year, on our way home from our typical Halloween-ing at Publix, we stopped at a few houses and realized…
our girls were ready to trick-or-treat.
We didn’t have to prep anyone in anticipation the big day.
By early September, Clementine was requesting the Pocoyo Halloween special on repeat and by October she had her ghost imitation on point.
The bigger kids were pretty pumped as well. I mean, it had been a long time since we’d technically trick-or-treated… long enough that a few of them didn’t even remember ever having done it.
Which really needed to be remedied. Stat.
We had to wait for the littlest to finish their daily nap because the sugar fest that awaited them surely would be more fun if they were well-rested.
Despite still being a big groggy, these girls were ready to get their trick-or-treat on.
We all were.
We found a little neighborhood not too far away with decorations dotting well-lit houses – all within walking distance of each other – a perfect pick for our littlest’s first full-on Halloween-ing.
And it just got better from there.
We came home a few hours later, tired and giggling.
And gleefully laden with armfuls of the good stuff.
I think we all know what we’ll be doing come Halloween 2019.
She is loving and kind. She is funny and always able to laugh at herself.
I might be biased, but I certainly can’t take any credit for how amazing she is.
She’s pretty darn wonderful. And her siblings think so too.
She’s also surprisingly mature. Composed and calm. Capable.
And crazy enough, nine candles on the top of her cake seemed appropriate, not angst-producing. She seems like she’s really nine.
And in her mature, composed way, she asked for the most practical gifts: markers, a sewing kit…
But we gifted her with a few surprises.
Sophie made her a tiny lovey in the shape of her favorite food – a pickle.
And we decided to gift her with the one thing she’d been dreaming of but never expected.
A trip to the bunny farm. The same farm her bigger sisters had visited a few months before and picked out their very own miniature rabbits. The farm where Poppy began dreaming of maybe having her own bunny someday.
Surprising her is such fun.
Isabelle gifted Poppy with a pinata – and all the candy trimmings – in a beautiful display of sisterly love.
And we all proceeded to laugh until our sides hurt.
Or until the pinata burst open.
Cue mad dash for candy by everyone under the age of 30.
An old favorite, ice cream cake, was the birthday girl’s dessert of choice, with mint chocolate chip and cookies and cream ice cream.
And nine candles on top.
So much endured and accomplished in those nine years.
This girl has come so very far from the scared little love I met in China 7 years ago.
Poppy-girl, you astound me. He created you so perfectly, and watching you blossom into all He’s made you to be brings us all more joy than you’ll ever know.
We don’t really do back-to-school stuff anymore. Not that I don’t want to, it’s just a bit anti-climactic when you homeschool…
The first day just sorta feels like just another day, but with a stack of new curriculum.
If I were a planner, and the tiniest bit organized, I might do just back-to-school photos on the first day of the year.
But I’m not. And I didn’t.
This year we even started a week earlier than normal – we’d initially planned to start back July 30th but, since we had all our curriculum and supplies and not a lot on the calendar, figured we’d get a jump start on the year.
This way, we reasoned, if something comes up, we’ve got an extra week built into our schedule to accommodate something.
Now we’re already at our first break (four weeks on, one week off) and, with everyone else in town just back to school and the weather the tiniest bit cooler, it seemed the perfect time to get ourselves back to the zoo.
And, as someone who loves to multi-task at every opportunity, this seemed like a perfect time to capture our own version of back to school pictures.
No school bus backdrops.
No bulging backpacks in tow.
Not even a new pair of shoes.
Just my babies in all their new-school-year excitement. (Ahem.)
I’m also taking the opportunity to record how big they’re getting because… whoa. I can hardly believe how quickly they’re all growing up.
And the last time I officially wrote it all down for safe-keeping here on our little corner of the interwebs was two years ago.
Clementine is five and starting to do some kindergarten-related activities… tracing letters, learning letter sounds and trying to spell her name.
She is 34 pounds and 42.5″ (7th and 20th percentiles!) – which means she has grown 5″ and gained 5 pounds.
So crazy proud of this girl and how brave she has been in tackling her feeding issues.
Her favorite activities include singing, playing with her Shopkins, drawing spiders, talking about Halloween, and climbing on the Gorilla Gym. Her favorite book is her Fun Food Felt Book and her favorite song is Baby Shark. Her favorite things to watch are Pocoyo, Ferdinand, and Nick Jr.
Tallula is eight and in the 3rd grade.
She is 54 pounds and 4’1″ (34th and 23rd percentiles) – which means she has grown 4.5″ and gained 11 pounds.
Her favorite subject is Worldly Wise “because it’s fun to learn new words.” Her least favorite subject is math “because division is quite hard for me right now.”
Her favorite non-school thing to do is to hang out with the chickens, practice her finger knitting, and paint with watercolors. Currently reading Horse Diaries: Jingle Bells.
Isabelle is 14 and in the 8th grade.
She is 115 pounds and 4’11 1/2″ (59th and 10th percentiles) – which means she has grown 2″ and gained 18 pounds.
Her favorite subject is history “because I love learning about the past.” Her least favorite subject is math “because pre-algebra is very hard for me to understand.”
When she is not watching World War II documentaries, she enjoys reading graphic novels and playing Just Dance. Currently reading The Battle of the Labyrinth.
Sophie is 14 and (!!!) a freshman this year.
She is 99 pounds and 5’1″ (22nd and 19th percentiles) which means she has grown 3.5″ and gained 17 pounds.
Her favorite subject is science “because I like doing experiments.” Her least favorite is “always math because I’m not very good at it.” Her favorite non-school activities are crocheting, making crafts for her dogs and her penpal, playing with her rabbits, and following a million dogs on Instagram. Currently reading Unidentified Suburban Object.
Shepherd is 11 and in the 6th grade.
He is 61 pounds and 4’6″ (2nd and 6th percentiles) – which means he has grown 3.5″ and gained 9 pounds.
His favorite subject is math “because it’s easy.” His least favorite subject is language arts “because it takes a long time to do.”
When he’s not doing schoolwork, you can find him curled up in a chair enjoying a book, shooting his air-soft gun, or shepherding the chickens while they free-range. Currently reading The Copernicus Legacy.
Poppy just turned nine and is in the 4th grade.
She is 44.5 pounds and 4’1 3/4″ (1st and 5th percentiles) – which means she has grown 3″ and gained 4 pounds.
Her favorite subject is math “because it’s easy.” Her least favorite subject is phonics “because it takes so long… and it’s boring.”
When she is not doing schoolwork (or swinging upside down on the Gorilla Gym), she enjoys crafting, knitting, and holding her bunny, Wasabi. Currently reading The Bolds.
Dalton is 16 and a junior this year.
He is 163 pounds and 5’10 3/4″ (80th and 76th percentiles) – which means he has grown 2″ and lost 11 pounds. (He quit eating sugar and when I asked him why he said he’s not really sure. Teens.)
His favorite subject is chemistry “because it’s not as boring as everything else.” His least favorite is literature “because Shakespeare uses big, ‘olde with an e’ words.” When he’s not being positively bored by his curriculum, his life revolves around basketball: playing it, reading about it or watching it on YouTube. Currently reading The Great Big Book of Horrible Things: The Definitive Chronicle of History’s 100 Worst Atrocities.
Vivienne is ten and in the 5th grade.
She is 84 pounds and 4’5″ (59th and 8th percentiles) – which means she has grown 5″ and gained 18 pounds.
Her favorite subject is science “because I like the animals.” Her least favorite is writing “because it’s a lot of work.”
When she’s not doing schoolwork she enjoys playing with her rabbit, Sushi, and making crafts for herself and her penpal. Currently reading Wings of Fire.
If you’re keeping count, this is our third batch of chicks since spring.
Some call it chicken math.
I’m not sure what to call it other than a ridiculous amount of fluffy cuteness.
The first two chicks we bought in March – as hatching eggs – that were shipped to us and eventually hatched out and raised by our sweet (and incredibly dedicated) Buff Orpington, Juniper. One is a Cream Legbar hen (Camellia) and the other is a Black Copper Marans rooster (Jasper).
They are now 3 1/2 months old and living in a mini-condo down by the barn, spending afternoons happily pecking mint and worms in our little garden.
The next two chicks were a bit of a surprise purchase. Completely unwittingly, we walked into the feed store and found ourselves smack dab in front of a trough full of the tiniest, cutest $3 pullets. Some of them Silver Wyandottes, a breed we’d wanted to try but were unable to get when we’d initially ordered our chicks.
Half out of desperation (on behalf of our other broody Buff Orpington, Marigold, who had been setting on an empty nest for upwards of 3 months), and half out of desire to add some Wyandonttes to our flock, we left with two of them.
It was well worth the $6. And Mama Marigold took to her tiny brood immediately, despite the fact that she hadn’t hatched them out, nor did they resemble her in the slightest.
And then there’s these two fluff balls.
Ginger, a Golden Laced Orpington, came to us as a complete surprise from a wonderfully big-hearted person who also breeds gorgeous chickens and wondered if she could send the kiddos a box of adorable, cheeping fun?
Well, of course.
Six chicks were shipped to us but, tragically, five of the six died in transit despite being incredibly well provided for and protected. It was so sad. But Ginger was such a huge bright spot and, once we got her body warm and tummy full, has been a constant source of amusement ever since.
Then there’s Pepper, a Silver Laced Orpington, that we searched for locally to keep our sweet Ginger company. Because, despite the fact that we hold her almost incessantly, we are no substitute for feathered company. Amazingly Pepper was hatched on the same day as Ginger and should be about the same size and temperament as Ginger, just a different color.
It took them just a day or two to get used to each other and now they are like typical siblings… playing one minute and pecking on each other the next. But so very grateful to have each other – to be part of a family.
What truths the Lord is impressing upon our hearts through time spent watching and loving on these tiny balls of fluff.
That being a family doesn’t have anything to do with what’s on the outside.
That deep connection springs from shared experiences – the day in and the day out – not biology.
Being a military family has its share of challenges. One of them was that we had to move every two to three years, no matter what. Most of the time we were able to sell our homes, God just always seemed to work it out.
But when we moved away from Maine the market was soft. And we loved our house – it was solidly built, on a wonderful lot and close to an amazing town with phenomenal schools. But it just wasn’t a good time to sell.
So instead we found a renter and, for the most part, went on with life.
Fast forward seven years and our renter ready to move on. We were ready to sell the house and move on, too.
Which gave us a great incentive to head north: do a little home improvement, get the house ready to sell and visit our old stomping grounds.
The trip is almost 22 hours by car so only a few brave souls were willing (or nominated) to go… Asher, my sweet sister, Clementine and I.
Because Clementine does not like to be away from me for long, we knew that if I went, she’d have to go.
Since we’d already taken her halfway around the world to bring her baby sister home, we knew a little drive from Alabama to Maine would be a snap. And, for the most part, we were right.
The trip was easy. The work? Not easy at all.
But the three of us persevered and polished and scrubbed and hammered and shined until our hands were calloused and our backs ached while sweet Clementine amused herself with a backpack full of toys and an iPad.
Then it was time to head home.
But first, a stop at the Hamilton House.
A place we’d loved to visit during our years there.
A place we’d wandered and pondered big and little things.
Like the possibilities as we waited for news of our Poppy’s referral.