One way to build a connection with your child.

 

connection

You want to connect with your child, but you don’t know where to start. Maybe you didn’t grow up with siblings, maybe you didn’t have a close relationship with your own mother. Anyways, you aren’t sure how to go about building those connections.

When I became a mom, I didn’t know how! I thought connecting would come naturally, like learning to comb your own hair. But as  it turns out, it can be hard! Maybe it’s just my independent nature. I like to be left alone to red a book, or take a walk, or whatever. I am somewhat of an introvert, so I can handle alone-ness quite well.

But, to be a friend, one must step outside of their comfortable space, and step into the life of another. And this was where I got hung up.

“But your own kids?! What is wrong with you?!”

I don’t know. Maybe I am just weird. Maybe I am more of a introvert than I thought! Maybe I didn’t have a close enough relationship with my own mom. At any rate, I struggle with this!

laughter

One easy way I have learned to connect with my kids, has been to laugh with them. (not at them!) Who cares if their jokes are corny or their stories repeated? I just laugh with them! We laugh at silly pictures we find online, we laugh at corny jokes and puns (latest obsession!), we laugh at funny accents and just pretty much anything we can. Now, I am the first to say “cut the foolishness”. After all, God’s Word tells us that foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child…

“Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child;
The rod of discipline will remove it far from him.” Proverbs 22:15

So, we sure don’t want to encourage foolishness. But happy giggles, clean fun and lots of laughter – oh, this is good for the soul!

I purposely look for funny things to share with my kids, so we can laugh about it together. There is something about laughing together that builds a bond.

I encourage you to try it. Google “clean kid jokes” and you will find some great ones! Surprise your kids with some gut-busting humor today. 😉

laughter

Do you like to joke and laugh with your kids?
Is it hard to connect, or what things do you do, to build that connection?

Let us know by dropping a comment below, we’d love to learn from you!

TA Branding 2017

Morning on the ranchThe TA is a ranch west of us, that hosts a large branding every year. They actually have several ranches – quite a good-sized outfit. We were able to make it over for one of their brandings this year.
Cliff and I loaded up at 4:30 and drove around the mountain to meet at the ranch at about 6 am. We were there early, and joined the long line of trucks and trailers lining up to park.

The sun wasn’t up yet, when we mounted up and rode down to get instructions. They divided us into 4 groups, and off we went. We trotted a couple miles to the back of the pasture, got behind the cattle and started moving them back towards the corrals. In this part of the country we don’t round up and drive. 
We gather and push.
As in: “We’re gonna gather this pasture, and push them to the green gate.”

We were close to the back of the pasture when we came to this deep wash. (or gully, if you’re from the east)
The far side was steeper than it looks in the photo. One guy broke a rein-chain, and we all stopped at the top to get situated, readjust saddles, etc. This is why we use breast collars – because if you don’t, your saddle may end up over the horse’s rump.
We rode a bit further and there they were – the cattle were already starting to move, thanks to another group of riders that had reached the back of the pasture first.
Morning on the ranchAs we got closer to the corrals, the sound of lowing cows and bawling calves grew louder. The circle of cowboys tightened gradually, until we were riding side by side and bunching up to go through the gate.
It was a lovely, overcast morning. Cold at first but warming without getting too hot.The scenery was amazing, and the remote location meant no sounds of traffic or other civilization. Just cowboys, cattle, and horses.Morning cattle drive roundup wyoming

Quite the long line of trucks…
Question: Do you say pickup or truck? I was having this conversation with a friend recently, and I hadn’t thought about it much, but now I pay attention…. and yes, we say truck! 😀 Or at least I do. I guess I need to listen to what other around here call them. I have lived so many places in my life that I never know if I am speaking local slang or just carryover from my childhood. :)
PS – extra points if you recognize our rig. 😉Cattle trailers trucks at the branding

Once we had all the cows and calves into the corral, we waited for them to pair up a bit while we got instructions. Well, they got instructions. I offered my help but since there were so many people, the boss told me to just go take pictures. (Thank you Mr. Haskell!)Waiting at the TA branding

Firm handshakes 'round here.

Firm handshakes ’round here.

Oklahoma buckaroo Cody  holds a calf while it gets a brand.

Oklahoma buckaroo Cody holds a calf while it gets a brand.

 

Janet Jordan from Walden, CO throws a nice loop out there.

Janet Jordan from Walden, CO throws a nice loop out there.

Roping calves at the TA Cowgirl roping at the TA Funny cow photo heading and heeling at the TA Branding cowboy at the TA Branding calf in sagebrush cowgirl roping John Love roping at the TA Jed Roark and John Love roping at the TA Cliff Schrock roping at the TA Cody Roy roping at the TAThere were 800+ calves that day. They gathered, roped, and branded them by 11:00 am. There were two branding pots set up, and lots of ropers! Still, that’s pretty impressive. I had so much fun photographing them. Hope you enjoyed this little piece of western life. :)

Blackberry Pie Recipe

blackberry pie recipeBig drops of sweat ran down my face as I gently pulled the briars away from my skirt. I gingerly stomped at the base of the brambles ahead of me, trying to mash them down away from me, so they wouldn’t grab my clothes and skin. I steadied the plastic ice-cream bucket with my other hand, careful not to allow any berries to spill.

I picked all the ripe blackberries within reach, then carefully reached through the briars to pick a few more. I reached as far as I could without spilling my bucket of berries, or falling face-first into the briars. No matter how careful I was, I would get my arm caught on a thorn, then I’d grit my teeth as I unhooked my skin. Sweat ran down my face and down my back and down my legs.

The bees buzzed lazily around the sweet blossoms, and crawled over the ripe, juicy berries. Ants scurried over the berries, too, getting their fill of the sweetness. Every so often, I’d have to pick a tick off my arms or my dress. But they were less annoying than the chiggers that I would certainly find the following day. We’d rub Avon ‘Skin-So-Soft’ oil all over our arms and legs before we began, but it didn’t work that great. We still came home loaded with ticks and chiggers.

After several hours of picking wild blackberries in the soggy, stifling heat, Mom would finally sigh and say: “Well, I guess that’s as much as we can get today. We better go home.”

Sweeter words were never spoken.

We’d untie the scarves from our waists, carefully pouring our buckets of berries into the huge, stainless steel bowls. We’d climb wearily into the van, picking off the last few briars and sticks and other debris from hours trampling around in brambles higher than our heads.

If mom had a bit of extra money, she’d stop at the Little Red Barn on the way home, and buy us an ice cream cone. It didn’t make up for picking blackberries, but it sure was delicious! I would lick the ice cream as fast as I could, trying to get every drop of cool sweetness before it dripped and was wasted. The hot summer sun burned down and the wind from the open windows felt hot, not cooling at all. But with no AC, moving air seemed better than still air, somehow.

When we arrived at home, mom carefully washed the berries, and spread them on a clean towel to dry. Then she would put them in bags and into the freezer. They would make many delicious pies all year long.

But she didn’t freeze all of them – she made pie, too. And jam. But the pie was my favorite! We’d have blackberry pie for dessert, Saturday evening, then we would have a slice for breakfast Sunday morning. It was the most delicious thing I ever ate! It tasted like hot sun and sweet summertime and mom’s love.blackberry pie-3

Here is my personal recipe for blackberry pie. Mom never measured, and I don’t either. We add and taste! But just for you, I measured. I measured several times, over several weeks, trying to perfect the taste. I think I have it!

Now, I don’t live in the blackberry mecca of the Midwest, anymore. There aren’t any blackberry bushes out here, that I have found. So, I start with frozen blackberries from the grocery store.

Put them in a kettle, add some water, and let them simmer. You don’t want too much water or you will end up with a lot of sauce and not much fruit. The berries really cook down! Also, I buy Clear Jell from Amazon. You can substitute corn starch, but I do not know the ratio. Here is the kind I buy: (click on photo)

When the berries come to a simmer, add sugar, butter, and lemon juice. Stir occasionally till it boils.

Add the clear jell mixture, and stir quickly because it begins to thicken almost immediately. Bring to a boil then remove from heat. You can fill your crust immediately, or let the filling cool. Either way works.

Tips:
–Cornstarch thickens more as it cools. Clear Jell reaches its full thickening when it boils.

–This recipe is crafted for tame, store-bought blackberries. if you use wild berries, they will definitely need more sugar! They make better pies, in my opinion, but they are much more tart. :) Fresh berries work great, too. 

–This goes well with my Pie Crust Recipe. 😉

Blackberry Pie Recipe
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 1 16 oz bag frozen blackberries (or 3 cups)
  • 1 cup water
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • 2 TBLS butter
  • juice from ½ lemon (about 2 TBLS)
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 TBLS clear jell
  • 2 9-inch pie crust
Instructions
  1. Put berries in large saucepan, add water. Bring to a simmer, add sugar, butter, and lemon juice. Simmer till sugar is dissolved, and butter is melted, stirring occasionally.
  2. Mix Clear Jell and ¼ cup water in a cup. Stir with spoon till dissolved.
  3. Taste the blackberry mix to see if it tastes ok. Add more sugar or lemon juice, if needed.
  4. Stir in the clear jell and bring to a boil. Caution! At this point it will bubble and splash, and the filling is quite hot!
  5. Once it is at a boil and the filling is no longer cloudy, remove from heat and let cool. Fill one pie crust and top with second crust. Pinch edges closed, and bake at 350* for 1 hour.

 

Water is for walking on.

water is for walking on

Peter said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.”
 And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus.
 But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”
 Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
When they got into the boat, the wind stopped. And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, “You are certainly God’s Son!” Matthew 14:28-33

The ‘water’ in our life can take many forms. Health problems, financial difficulties, marital tension, relational problems, family issues… the list goes on.

Peter recognized Jesus in the midst of his storm. He saw Jesus, and he wanted Jesus! Notice Peter didn’t ask Jesus to quiet the storm. He just said “command me to come to You.” Peter wanted to be with Jesus.

What an example! He didn’t care about the storm, he wanted to be in the presence of Jesus more than he wanted the storm to be still. I want to be like that – to look UP. To look above the storms and wild waves of my life, and see Jesus – walking on top of the water.

Have you seen Jesus in your storm? Have you asked, with your small faith, to come to Him? He offers the same power to us, that He did to Peter.

“Come!” Jesus command rings out with power you can grab on to. Grab hold, my friend! He will not let you drown. But don’t take your eyes off Him – even for a second. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, and you will walk above the waves of your stormy sea. Water is for walking on, after all!

I often identify with the impulsive, passionate personality of Peter. He would shoot off at the mouth, get angry, even lie. Then – almost immediately – he would be remorseful, repentant, and fall at Jesus’ feet in love and adoration. I know that feeling. Oh, how often I get in trouble with my impulsive, passionate nature! Yet Jesus is always there to rebuke, instruct, and love. He keeps tenderly, lovingly, gently drawing me to Himself.

Even though Peter was not the model disciple (as we would think), he was the only one who walked on the water with Jesus. He failed miserably many times; in anger he cut off the soldier’s ear, in fear he denied knew Jesus, in despair went back to his nets when Jesus was crucified. Yet Jesus saw his faith, small though it was. Jesus still loved him and gave him power. Peter was the one to whom Jesus said “Come!”

We may not look put together, we may be messy and have a lot of work to do yet. But if we love Jesus deeply and passionately, and have faith – we too, can walk on the waves.

Let’s lift our eyes above the stormy waves, and cry out to our Lord to save us. To help us. To give us wisdom. He will, you know.

Water is for walking on, after all.

 

Ranch Dates.

ranch dates

I was married young – 19 years young, in fact. And then boom! A year later we had a baby. And we had another… and another. So we didn’t have much time with ‘just us’. We soon learned that if we wanted to go on dates, we would have to work harder than most couples, to make it happen.

We lived by my in-laws the first 4 years of our married life. That was great – we could leave the babies with them. But then we moved to the ranch. Yeah, not so easy to go on a date when there is no family, no one willing to babysit. But we didn’t stop dating – we became creative! 

I call them ‘Ranch Dates’. We live on a ranch – we don’t live where there is a cafe on every corner. We often can’t get off work to drive the hour to town, and even if we did, where’s the money for that on a cowboy’s wage, amiright?

One of my favorite ways to squeeze in some couple time, is riding together. If he’s feeding cake; I jump in the truck. Yes, I have to open gates for him, but I also get to talk to him for several hours! Ha! Sometimes us girls just need to talk – to get all those words out of our system, you know.

Or, if he is feeding hay in the winter – I jump in, whether it is the truck or the tractor. Often, I bring along the youngest kiddo. Babies fall sleep pretty fast when they are rocked to sleep by a tractor. Again, may have to open a few gates, but c’mon, girls! Who’s fussing over a couple gates, hmm?!

ranch datesWhen he is riding cattle for health – ride along. Now, this is going to vary widely depending on your parenting philosophy. After losing our Andy, we realized that accidents can – and do – happen to our kids. We are extra cautious with our kids, with what risks we allow. You may be comfortable with tossing your one-year-old up one a broke horse. You may feel comfortable to leave your kids at the house at a younger age than we do. But once they are old enough to stay home, ride out sometime with your man and no kids. The kids will be ok, and you will feel like a honeymooner again!

When your husband needs parts from town – go along!! Please, please, please. Whatever you may think of my other ideas, at least try this one! The house can wait. Take the baby if that’s easier. But for Pete’s sake GO! I’ll tell you the secret reason: there is ice cream in town, and if you don’t have the whole passel of kids along – he might just swing through and get ya some! :) (yes, I am sneaky!)  Ok, but seriously. You may sit in the truck waiting for an hour at the parts store, or the feed store, or Murdoch’s, but you get the whole drive in and back to talk, and again – ice cream. ‘Nuf said.

Couch dates. Put the kids to bed and snuggle up on the couch with fun snacks and drinks, and turn on a movie. If you live in Wyoming, you should have plenty of long, cold evenings to try this idea! 😀

These are some of the ways we work in dates together. Sometimes it is not convenient to drop my work and go on a town run, or ride in the tractor. But when he sticks his head in the door and asks: “I have to go check a well in the back pasture – want to ride along?” I try to make it work. :)

ranch datesHow do you make your marriage a priority? Do you make time for just the two of you? I’d love to hear!

The Key to Sticking With It.

summer yearlings wyo

The key for long-term changes in my life, has been identifying the biggest obstacles that will arise, and figuring out a plan to deal with it before I even begin. Or at least recognizing the times that will be hard to work through, and set my mind to not get off-plan.
 
For example, when I started to exercise last fall, I knew I would NOT want to leave my house in January when it was cold and windy and snowy. BUT, I decided that I would just DO IT. Was it hard? Yes. But I would remind myself that I wanted to change, and that I was tough enough to do this! It also helped tremendously to have a workout buddy!
 
When I decide to lose weight, I think about all the ‘excuses’ that I know will come up… vacations, birthdays, church events, parties… then I decide if I will happily cheat those days, or else how to eat heathy those days. Either way, figuring it out ahead of time help me get right back on track morning after, instead of giving up because I ‘blew it’. 😉
 
Currently, writing consistently is my biggest challenge. It has been for some years. I am still figuring out a routine that works for me. I can’t write in the evenings – my brain starts shutting down after 4 pm. I get too busy/sidetracked in the afternoons, and mornings I like to study. But I will keep trying!! 😀
 
I read that if you decide you will stick to something long-term, it’s more effective at reaching goals, than saying ” I can do this for xx days”. The mental act of committing long term helps us keep going. I can say that is true for me.
 
Don’t make excuses, don’t give up. Identify your weak spots, figure out how to deal with them, and keep going! A baby falls dozens of times while learning to walk – it gets up and starts again. You can fall and flub up too – just get up and try again! :)

We Said Yes to Foster Care.

Foster care

Yes to sippy cups and stinky diapers.
Yes to interruptions and hours of rocking.
Yes to car seat struggles and bedtime tears.
Yes to sticky hands and food in hair.
Yes to higher cost of food and not fitting in the truck.
Yes to court hearings, worker meetings, and awkward parent meetings.
Yes to doctor appointments, WIC appointments, and not being able to use a sitter.
We said yes to foster care.

Yes to chubby hands clasped tightly around mine.
Yes to first shy kisses and tentative hugs.
Yes to beautiful smiles and gorgeous eyes.
Yes to another daughter or another son.
Yes to laughter and giggles and someone who adores you.
Yes to extra love and extra snuggles.
Yes to praying another soul – another family – towards the kingdom of God.
Yes to someone to dance with.
Yes to tight neck-hugs.
Yes to showing this wonderful world to another innocent soul.
Yes to God’s way of bringing us more fully into His likeness.
We said yes to foster care.

foster care
NOTE: Foster care is not glamorous. It does not mean we are special or extraordinary. But, by the grace of God we have been given this opportunity to share His lavish love, and His lavish gifts. I struggle at times with giving of myself. I am basically selfish. God has been using this avenue to break me and teach me. Like Jason Johnson says: “We don’t strut into their stories with a cape on our back; we crawl in with a cross on our back.” – Jason Johnson Blog

Spring Storm, a photo post.

Last week we had a couple days of snow. We often get some snow on Mother’s Day, but this year the holiday was warm and beautiful. I thought maybe we were safe. But no. About Wednesday evening, it began snowing, and snowed through Friday noon. We received about 15-18 inches of snow.

Unfortunately, it is calving season, so the guys had to ride through the herd frequently to save calves. My man was out from first light (4:30 AM) till dark (9:00PM), checking cows, bringing cold ones into the barn, etc.

We did pretty good though, and yesterday a lot of the snow melted. Today we had a few more snow flurries, but nothing that stuck.Wyoming spring storm 17-2 spring storm 17-9 spring storm 17-10 spring storm 17-11 spring storm 17-12

Medicine Bow River

Medicine Bow River

spring storm 17-14

A bird on the chokecherry bushes.

A bird on the chokecherry bushes.

My Journey of Faith, part 8 – the end.

“For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? Matthew 6:25-26

My Journey of Faith part 8 the end

In my last Journey of Faith post, I told you how I overcame discouragement and loneliness. And how we found out that my husband would lose his job in a few weeks…

It was early January, cold and snowy. We were living in an old, drafty farmhouse that was hard to heat. (we had moved from the trailer house into a farmhouse in the country, in October) We put a blanket over the staircase, moved the kids’ beds downstairs, and heated only the living room and kitchen. Propane was costing us 450.00 every 4-5 weeks to heat our house – it was eating up our small budget too fast. I remember at one point wondering how we were going to survive the winter without begging for money!

But I learned once again that God never fails His children! He is always faithful to supply our needs. We trusted Him, Cliff worked hard, I tried to be as thrifty as I could, and we always had food to eat. One time a man came to church – just a visitor – and after church he took Cliff out to his vehicle and gave us bags and boxes of food. Produce, mostly, and some dried beans. All from his garden! He said he had ‘way too much garden veggies, and wanted to bless someone with it! As far as I know, he never came back to church – I am certain he was an angel. :) We ate squash, potatoes, carrots, beans, and many other good vegetables for weeks. Sometimes there would be an envelope in our mailbox with a little cash in it. I wish I knew who felt prompted by God to give – we never asked for money or talked about our finances. I would like to thank those dear saints for being sensitive to the Holy Spirit in their lives!

Well, back to the lay-off… When we heard that we’d be out of a job in a couple weeks, we honestly were stumped. What does a person do who gets laid off in the middle of winter with literally no savings, no college degree, no nothing?!

We prayed.

God answered our prayers in a powerful, amazing way!

My sister and her husband used to work on a ranch near Cheyenne, WY, and we used to visit them there. Through them, we learned to know a young man who ran cattle on a couple ranches in WY. Well, when we were considering what to do for a job, Cliff remembered that young man, and decided to call him up.

When Cliff asked him if he had any job openings, the man answered: “Yes, I just leased a new ranch this month and need a another guy to help run it. You can start next week.”

We were blown away! God had lined up the perfect job for us at the exact time we needed it. I tell you, friends, God does things like this all the time. We aren’t special or anything. But I have trained myself to see God’s hand in everything. You can do that too. Write it down. Or tell someone. Don’t say: “Well that was pretty neat!” and forget about it. Notice when God works a miracle for you. Praise Him! Thank Him!

 “…for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.” Matt. 6:8S

So on Monday morning, Cliff packed a sleeping bag and a suitcase and drove up to Wyoming to start his new job. I stayed in CO and started packing. I packed up all our belongings as best I could between caring for three little ones. (the kids were 1, 3 and 5) On Saturday, Cliff came home and we loaded most of our belongings into our trusty pink horse-trailer and headed north.

On Monday, I took the kids and drove down with the truck and trailer for the final load. My sister came along to help, since she was visiting for awhile. She helped me clean the house and pack up the remaining things.

Ranch life was good. Cliff enjoyed the work, the salary was better than we had ever enjoyed before, (that’s not saying much, but while you won’t get rich on a ranch, at least you have a house!) and we all loved the wide open spaces of Wyoming!

Three short months after we moved to Wyoming, our faith was tested in a very different and difficult manner. Our youngest child, Andy, was playing near the irrigation canal and drowned. It was by far the most trying circumstance we had to face. But as always, God brought us through that, too. I am thankful for the grace of God that is give in every situation. I did struggle quite a bit with guilt over Andy’s death. Then I had to learn to graciously respond to people’s ignorant but well-meaning comments. Each part of the trial forced me to lean on God more, and dig deeper in His Word and His wisdom.

If you want to read the story of Andy, you can find it here. Andy

That was ten years ago. We have been living in Wyoming and working on ranches and we still like Wyoming! :) It is our favorite state, despite the brutal winters and mosquito-laden summers.  We  lived on that first ranch (the X-Bar) for 4.5 years, then moved to a ranch north of Cheyenne for 5 years, and currently we are on a ranch in the mountains west of Laramie.

Our children are blessed to grow up in this wonderful ranching community, learning to rope and ride and care for animals. Cliff still enjoys ranching, he also owns a small leather business on the side where he makes saddles, chaps, and other gear for working cowboys.

After our son died, I started reading about foster care, and slowly my heart was drawn to the amazing work of being a safe place for kids who are removed from their homes. After 5 years of my reading and dreaming, we were licensed as a foster home, and received our first placement in May, 2015. Foster care was never Cliff’s dream, but he supported my dream. After 7 kids coming through our home, I can say the honeymoon period is over, haha! but I still have an incredible burden for these kids and this work. Even when it is the hardest, I am reminded how precious each child is to our God, how much He cares about them.

Our life looks so much different than I ever thought it would, but God’s plans are always best. So many things He said “No” to, and that was best. Then He said “Yes” to many wonderful things that I could never have dreamed of! I am learning to take each experience from His hand of love, and be thankful.

If this series has blessed or encouraged you in any way, I would love if you leave a comment and tell me why! :) Thank you to all who have replied to my stories and encouraged me to write it.

If you missed a post, you can find them here:
My Journey of Faith part 1

My Journey of Faith part 2

My Journey of Faith part 3

My Journey of Faith part 4

My Journey of Faith part 5

My Journey of Faith part 6

My Journey of Faith part 7

Branding calves with friends.

Wyoming Cowgirl roping Branding season is upon us, and it is great! Warmer weather, lots of friends, and of course, roping – if you’re into that sort of thing. 😉

We went to our first branding on May 6, and had a great time. There was quite a crowd to help out, and we got to catch up with lots of friends. Some I hadn’t seen since last year.
Wyoming cowboy roping wyoming cowboy roping wyoming young cowboy  branding in wyoming Red angus calves Heel trap at a branding in wyoming cowboys at a wyoming branding cowboy and branding irons cowboy roping at a branding

The older kids rode along and Jenni even roped a couple calves. I kept the two little ones with me, and we came later, helped with the food, and played with friends. :)

I did enlist my teens to check on  the sleeping toddler while i snuck in the pen and grabbed a few closer photos. It is hard for me to get in there and get the shots I want – I am always afraid I will be in the way, ha! ranch kids playing at a wyoming ranch Cowboy branding

I have been so stinkin’ busy with the spring rush, that I just haven’t taken much time to write. I have been working in my garden and taking care of kiddos… I will write a garden update in a few days or weeks, haha!