My favorite spot: a bluff overlooking the Medicine Bow river and Elk Mountain in the distance.
This month we had our mid-winter thaw. The weather warmed to an incredible 35-40 degrees! Tons of snow melted, the run-off swelling the river and making a muddy mess around the house. The river had been nearly covered in snow and ice since December. Only a few small open spots. But the warm weather melted most of the ice and the water was rushing merrily along.
I went for a walk one warm day, and while walking along my favorite spot above the Medicine Bow river, I had a strong sensation of deja vu.
I realized it was because I have read and re-read books about the far north; White Fang, Tish,Mrs. Mike, and Silence of the North. In them, you read of a ‘warm spell’ when the hardy pioneers would go out and relish the warm weather, having picnics on the bare patches of ground where the snow had melted.
“Less than a week after that the weather broke. The sun came out warm and bright, the snow started to melt, and the lakes opened up along the shores…” ~The Silence of the North
When I read those stories, I never understood how it could be ‘warm’ at 30 or 40 degrees?! I mean, c’mon! There was still ice on the river and snowdrifts in the shade, for crying out loud! (remember, I spent childhood winters in Florida!)
But now I know.
When you have been through several months straight where the temps never climb out of the teens, there is literally 4 ft drifts, and the snow falls fresh almost daily — well, you can see how melting snow and 40 degrees feels warm!
I did actually consider a picnic, but the wind was blowing pretty hard, so I decided against it. Instead, I went for a walk, first along the top of the bluff, then down the winding lane to the river bottom. The late afternoon sunshine was so lovely, falling warm and clear across the water.
But, the February thaw ended, as all good things do, and we are back to full blown winter. It is good, because when you live on what the land produces, you need snow. You may not enjoy working in it, but it is good for the soil. The land. The cattle. The grass. The water supply for next summer. So I will take it with thankfulness, and hope I don’t have to drive on the snowy roads too much! 😉
Both of the snowy pics were taken from my kitchen windows. Those cows are on some kind of internal clock that is pretty precise. Every morning when I get up, they are lying on the hillside. But right at 6:45 to 7:00, they all get up and file to the water. It’s funny, kind of, how they are so reliable. You could set an alarm by ’em!
I received a new cookbook for Christmas; ‘A Taste of Cowboy’, by Kent Rollins. I have been experimenting with some of his sourdough recipes, and they are pretty tasty! I made these sourdough rolls one day, and they didn’t last long, I can tell you! It was the first time I baked them in a cast iron pan, and I decided I need to pul them out of the oven a couple minutes sooner, because that cast iron holds heat for a long time, so they continue baking after they are out of the oven.
What are ya’ll doing today, I wonder? Anyone else staying close to the fire? 😉
We lived in Missouri for 5 years, and had many experiences, good and bad.
Three children were born to us, a girl – then two boys.
Cliff’s dad passed away unexpectedly from a heart attack at age 45.
We built a small house mostly by ourselves. It was on my mother-in-law’s property.
Cliff started a small rock-laying business on the side.
Then he started a leather tack business in our living room. (still going today!)
Building our tiny house! 2005
It was during this time that I grew a lot in the areas of patience, self-control, and unselfishness. Not that I am perfect by any means, (!!!) but the day-to-day responsibilities of being a mother and a wife taught me a lot.
Making ends meet when we lived on $400-500 per week, struggling to pay dental bills and vehicle breakdowns and appliance failures. Thanks to my naturally thrifty nature, and my mother’s example, I often made 20.00 last for a weeks worth of groceries for the two of us. The babies were always breastfed and the toddlers – well, you know how little they eat!
Our little family back in 2005.
We ate a lot of beans and potatoes, and Cliff shot a deer or two every fall. Often neighbors would give us extra deer they’d shot. One fall we bought a pig and butchered it. That was a huge treat! I cured the bacon myself, to save on butcher house costs. It was great! The Lord blessed us tremendously during that time. I found a man who had lots of grapevines he didn’t use, so my friend and I would go pick bushels of grapes and can the juice. I bought ‘seconds’ of apples and peaches and canned them. I had a generous neighbor who gave me her extra green beans to can, and corn to freeze.
My sister and her husband; Marcel.
One year we went on a vacation to Idaho to visit my sister and her family on a ranch. When we got back, my garden was destroyed by the neighbor’s goat herd! I felt pretty defeated, but we made out ok. It was a lot of work gone, though!
I gave birth to several of our children at home, and midwives are not covered by insurance, even if we would’ve had it. (we didn’t) We paid for years for our babies. ($4,000 was a common rate) With one of our sons, we were blessed to be able to trade work towards the cost of the delivery. Cliff worked on their house in the evenings, in trade. (The midwife was a friend, so we were very thankful.)
I say all this – not for pity – but to share the goodness of God who never leaves us, and always provides for us! Always!! Along with learning to be a mother, I was learning to trust God. It was hard, financially. We were always tight. But I grew up like that, so it wasn’t new to me. In fact, I didn’t know any other way to live.
Such a good daddy!
It was difficult having 3 babies so close together, too. Each time, I got pregnant when my baby was 11 months old. So the three of them were all 21 months apart. At one point I had a 3 year old, a 1 year old, and a newborn! I get quite sick when I am pregnant, so there were many days where I would lie on the couch, nauseated, while my toddler(s) got into mischief. I had two babies in diapers, twice.
As a kid, I had always been my dad’s right-hand-man, so to speak, and never did get along very well in the house. So the transition to a full-time homemaker was a learning curve. The constant stream of dirty dishes, the constant exhaustion from being pregnant and having toddlers, the ever-needy children, the endless laundry and cooking that needed doing… it all wore on me.
My first two babies.
Cliff and Andy.
I loved being a mother, but I had to learn to pull on my big girl boots and just do it. My mother was very practical, and she raised us to have emotional control – which I am ever so thankful for! I knew the only thing to do was get up and do what needed doing.
I can tell you; you don’t need afternoon wine, or chocolate, or me-time, or girls’ nights or anything else our self-inclined society tells you. You need a reverent fear of God and His Word. You need to take control of your thoughts and put to death your selfish desires, and do what needs doing. “I die daily,” the Scripture says. (1 Cor 15)
Death isn’t fun! Death isn’t easy! Death is hard and painful. But the result is sweet acceptance and submission to God’s will. In my case; the raising and nurturing of a family. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with me-time and chocolate. Those things have their (limited) place. But please don’t turn to things to replace what God wants to do in you. He will mature you and grow you in ways you never knew possible, if you are willing to be purified. Seek God, above all! Read His word daily. Die to Self, live for Jesus. God is able to give you ALL you need, I can assure you.
When our 3rd baby was very young, our church went through an upheaval. Due to uncontrollable (by us) circumstances, we were left without a church. It was the first time I felt a bit lost and betrayed. We wanted to serve God, and know Him. Why would He jerk out the church from under us? Why would He leave us hanging, so to speak? I was confused. I wanted to move to Pennsylvania to a church where some of our friends were. I didn’t want to look for another church! I sure didn’t want to sit alone. But sit alone we did – for a while.
Then one day, Cliff was talking to his cowboy friend (my sister’s husband) on the phone. When he hung up, he asked me: “How would you like to move to Colorado and work for Marcel on his cattle operation?”
Of course I wanted to! They talked some more, and I wasn’t sure if it would work out. Maybe August, they said?
It was July, and I had the prettiest garden ever. The tomatoes were just starting to ripen when we got a call. Marcel (my bro-in-law) was taking a trip and needed someone to watch the cattle while they were gone. Could we come out in a week?
Well of course we could! We packed up our belongings and stuffed them into the front of the horsetrailer. We packed the truckbed and minivan full, too. There was just enough room for three carseats. We loaded our horse into the back end of the 4-horse trailer, and headed out one evening. Like any parent of small children – we knew if we travelled at night, they would sleep a good portion of the trip. Since we had a 5 month old baby, we knew it would be best if he was sleeping a lot of the way, since we both had to drive.
I drove the minivan and he drove the truck & trailer. We drove all night, stopping once for a short nap-break for me. I was so tired. I fought sleep so bad! When the sun rose, we were in CO and the scenery had changed. So that was better. I stayed awake pretty good for the rest of the trip. We pulled in to my sister’s place before noon, and I was sleep-drunk. But the babies were awake and hyper by then, so I sat in the cool grass and watched them play. The dry desert air of Pueblo was invigorating!
We lived in Pueblo for 9 months. Cliff rode and did care on yearlings with his brother-in-law. I thoroughly enjoyed living close to my sister, for the first time since I’d been married. We did everything together! We went shopping, canned peaches, did laundry, even went on a double date once, when our men found a sitter for our assorted toddlers! 😀 It was a special time in our lives. I had missed my family, and this living-a-mile-apart was so special.
Cowboys roping and doctoring a yearling.
It wasn’t easy… as inexperienced ranch hands, and working for a small outfit, we didn’t earn much at all. (1,200/month, plus free housing) The cost of living was higher in CO than it had been in MO. Gas had skyrocketed to over four dollars a gallon, and we were still driving junky vehicles that broke down a lot. Those nine months were the toughest, financially, that we have experienced, to date. I won’t bore you with all the details, but suffice it to say that it was hard. But you know what? God is a good Father. Often, just when money was due, we somehow got the money. We were given food and hand-me-downs, and we never went hungry. Again, I learned that God always provides, that He will always take care of you.
Horsey rides are the best! (Jenni)
Your faith can grow in these situations, more than when you are ‘sitting pretty’. But let it be known that being poor is NOT romantic! I have had several people in my life, different times and places, ask me “how it feels?” And, that they think it would be kind of sweet and fun to be poor… “Just working hard together!” “Growing in faith!”
Please don’t tell me that lack of money is somehow desirable. All that tells me is you’ve never tried to decide whether to pay your electric bill or buy food. You’ve never gone 6 months with the same razor because you couldn’t afford a new one. That you’ve never looked in your purse and scraped together enough coins to buy a jug of milk. There is nothing – let me repeat – NOTHING romantic about being poor. If you think there is, you probably haven’t been poor enough! 😉 It is definitely a faith-builder, but I would never ask for poverty.
Now I want you to know – we enjoyed life! We weren’t trudging along, depressed and worried constantly. We had our worries and troubles, almost daily, but we were living and working on a ranch, and that was our dream! We worked and played and went to church on Sunday. We didn’t eat out, go to movies, or heat all our bedrooms, but we lived just fine.
Speaking of church… at this time, we were attending my sister’s church most of the time. Not because we were particularly drawn to it, but because it was convenient. We visited several other churches in the area, but nothing really caught our attention. We didn’t know what God had for us.
We prayed about it, and sometimes I felt discouraged, because it seemed like we wouldn’t ever find a church that was right for us. We wanted something with life and vision. We didn’t just want to go to church on Sunday – we wanted to be part of a church family, one that wanted to follow Christ passionately! We kept looking.
When I was a little girl, my mom always baked a heart-shaped cake for my birthday, because my birthday falls just a few days before Valentine’s day. Mom would slather my cake in pink frosting, and sometimes she’d decorate it with candies on top, or little paper doilies under the edges, to make it special.
Many of my birthdays were spent in Florida, where it’s 80 degrees in February. My Amish grandma lived there, along with a bachelor uncle and a single aunt. I loved celebrating with them. Riding my bike on the warm streets of Sarasota was my favorite pastime! Here is a photo of my dad and three of his daughters. (I am in the center)
Anyways, so my birthdays are not as warm and sun-kissed, these days. Usually we’re snowed under, with gale force winds blowing. This year it was pleasantly warm – about 40 degrees, but of course we still have plenty of snow lying around. I had to take my daughter to the Dr. on my birthday, and I wasn’t feeling well. But I splurged and bought snacks for the evening. We watched movies and ate junk food, so it was a relaxing evening.
We don’t do a lot for Valentine’s Day. Sometimes we go out to eat, but this time we stayed home. Maybe you are of the persuasion that Valentine’s day is a forced-affection, commercialized day. Cheesy. Annoying. Invented to remind singles of their sad, unmarried status. High pressure on husbands.
But I love Valentine’s Day! I love the hearts and cheesy sentiments, and all the chocolate. I love roses and dates and hand-made Valentine’s made by my kids. I don’t expect a lot from my man. There’s been days he’s worked 12 hours and was too tired to go get a gift. That’s ok. I don’t always make his favorite treats, but he doesn’t mind. We have each other – true love that has endured much, and we love to celebrate it. But we don’t HAVE to celebrate it. We love each other every day, whether we’re riding in a tractor, feeding cows, or eating steak and ice cream.
I have been riding in the tractor with Cliff, lately. I just like to ride along and open gates and have uninterrupted time to talk, while he feeds hay. One day last week we saw this gorgeous rainbow!
Taken from the tractor door…
The balebuster chews up the big, round bales, and spits them out in a nice row for the cows. This helps the cows get at it easier, and there is less waste. Some people just put the bale on the ground whole. Well, that works fine, but then manure piles up in one spot, and that is not good for the ground. This way the manure gets spread out and is good for the hay meadows. They spread the hay in a slightly different spot each day.
I know I have said it before, but I can’t get over how cozy and warm our little house is, with this wood stove! I am shamelessly enamored with wood stoves, anyways, and this one is so efficient and perfect! I try to keep it burning at all times, although it does go out at night, usually. I just don’t wake up to replenish the wood during the night. Frank helps me chop wood and keep it stoked.
By the way, while I am repeating things, let me say again how much I love teens!! They are so much help. They are funny, caring, and smart. They can take care of themselves, and sometimes me. Their jokes are actually funny, now, and they are so creative and inventive.
Of course, they eat more, and are learning to drive, and don’t believe everything Mom says, ha! But that’s ok. I enjoy seeing them grown into their own personalities and interests.
Some days my man will call me about 10 o’clock or so, and ask if he may bring some guys along home for lunch. Usually he works alone, but some days they have a project that needs extra guys. I always say yes. Sometimes the lunch is rather slapped-together and certainly not fancy. But it’s hot and filling, so they don’t care.
Sometimes they just come in at 10 for coffee and snacks. Sometimes I have snacks and sometimes I have to serve bread and jelly. 😀 Anyways, it adds variety to my days. I enjoy cooking, so to putter in my kitchen all morning is a fun treat.
I wasn’t very consistent with my exercising in January and first part of Feb. I was gone some, and I was sick several times. But this week I am back at it. I am SORE! Whew. The gal on the workout dvd says: “you know, you’re burning lots of calories, doing this!” and I’m like: “I better be!” 😀 Haha! I do not workout because I enjoy it – I do it solely for the benefits. I have to admit that there is a certain sense of accomplishment that comes with exercising.
It was around 4 pm when our sweet daughter entered the world with that special newborn cry. I, who had never been too baby-crazy, looked down at her scrunched-up face and fell in love – as all mothers do! I was pretty sure I could feel my heart swelling with love, and the enormity of my emotion was overwhelming.
We took her back to my in-law’s house, and surrounded by family, we discovered the joys of night-wakings and first smiles. We were living in one bedroom, and my husband worked with his father during this time. My mother-in-law and the teen daughters operated a small bakery/sandwich shop, and I stayed home with my baby.
It was during this time that we started going to the same small church that my in-laws attended. It was a 2 hour drive one way to church. Not because there weren’t churches closer; this was the Bible Belt, after all. But this small country church had something the others didn’t: it had life. We drove to church every Sunday morning and home every Sunday afternoon. Thankfully, the folks at church were extremely hospitable, and we rarely left without a dinner (lunch) invitation. And usually a supper invite as well. Or more often, the dinner would stretch out to afternoon popcorn and games, then on into supper.
This church was pastored by a man whose teaching I hadn’t heard before. He preached often about the power of the Holy Spirit. Not about jumping and screaming and being slain in the spirit. But the power of the Holy Spirit… the power in a Christian’s life to overcome sin. I hung on every word. I hadn’t heard such life-changing stuff since Youth Bible school!
Some of the biggest lessons I learned there were:
—Temptation is not the same as sin. Satan puts thoughts in your head, and that is not sin. But if you yield to those thoughts, that is sin. Wow! That was life-changing for me! It took away all guilt I had for not being able to stop thoughts from popping in my head.
—To have power in your life, you must be filled with the Holy Spirit. Acts 1:8 I prayed specifically to be filled with the Holy Spirit every day, and I learned to ask for His help in each moment of temptation. I fell a lot in the beginning. But over time, as I followed the Bible’s teaching and grew in understanding, my ‘new man’ grew stronger and the ‘old man’ became weaker. Romans 6:6, Eph. 4:22-24
Two rules I learned that helped me overcome sin; 1. sincerely repenting each time, and 2. asking forgiveness each time the sin involved another person. My biggest problem is sinning with my tongue, so I had a lot of uncomfortable conversations with people! But when you go to the person and ask forgiveness, the very awkwardness of it will help you ‘think before you speak’ in the future.
Who is the Holy Spirit? He is simply the third Person of the Trinity: the Spirit of Christ. Romans 8:9
We moved to the community where this church was located, several months after our daughter was born, and we lived there 4 years. During that time, the pastor became a true spiritual father to us. He taught us many truths from God’s Word. He shepherded us as a young married couple, being an example with his life. His wife is a godly woman who taught me many things about living in a Christlike manner. I watched her ways, her speech, and her example. To this day, I text or call her when I am feeling overwhelmed! What a need there is for godly women to teach and mentor the younger women!
There were several very Godly women in that church who took me under their wing, and taught me how to mother, how to be a wife, how to cook and clean and be a better sister in the church. Sometimes I look back on those years and wince, as I remember all the dumb things I did and said as a young wife and mom in her early 20’s. Oh, goodness. So much immaturity! But no one chided me; they simply loved me and cared for me and gently taught me. My mother-in-law was one of the most important. I am so blessed with the mother I found in her! She was there when my own mother was far away, and I learned so much from her.
Thanks for sticking with me on this journey of faith. It has been good for me to go back and remember all the goodness of the Lord; all the mighty things He has done for me! There is nothing good in me – ONLY in Him!!