So as I said in my last post, things have been rather busy and some things have fallen to the wayside all in an attempt to spend lots of family time together, which seems to get lost sometimes with the busyness of the farm and life in general. In the fall, I coach volleyball (now past tense as I handed over the reigns to my assistant) . In the winter, Dave coaches basketball, so he's gone from 5 (sometimes he sleeps in until 5:30) in the morning until sometimes 7:30pm if there's a late practice, or like last night with an away game 11:00 pm. Times together can be hard to find, so the website took the backseat as we realized that our family time was getting too limited and that was our priority. We knew you would understand...you can still feel free to grumble, we won't mind!
While driving to Warren to drop off some eggs to Herbs R 4 U 2, Dave looked back as we noticed the car was a little too quiet and caught sight of our two darling children hand-in-hand, asleep in the backseat. I managed to take about 12 pictures until I got the picture just-right as I was in the front seat and bending my hand back so I could remain safely buckled in my seat. We also managed to get our Christmas tree that day at Sanford's. Pictures and days like that really make you take a step back and think about life and everything you have. It takes away from the focus of what you don't have in life, especially the wants. I need this reminder every once in a while and they are usually in abundant supply this time of year.
To give you a glimpse into our daily lives, during the week Dave is out of the house by 5:30am to take care of the animals while Ethan has usually woken me up around this time. I get Ethan and I breakfast and David usually makes he way down as we are finishing and everyone is raring to go. Now see, not being a born/raised farmer, morning times are not my thing, so I'm a little slower to get into the chipper mood that my sons are in at 5:30-6am. The only time of year that I am chipper and ready to roll before 8-8:30 is in December when the Christmas excitement overtakes me. Christmas morning I guarantee you I will be the one awake first, waiting for everyone else to wake up, the excitement too much to handle to the point where I can't sleep. I'm still like a kid in that way.
After breakfast, we chat and visit with daddy while he gets ready to go to school. By the time he's out of the house around 7:30, we're ready to start "learning." You see, I decided to homeschool David this year as I am a teacher by trade and by heart and Dave and I have always wanted to be able to "school" our children. So I took the plunge. It's been a lot of fun, but I won't try and cover it up, it's not all roses and Christmas cookies...sometimes it's skunky and lima beans. So we're working on our routine and what works for us and honestly, we're still working on it! Getting our learning done with a toddler is trying at times, but I have found ways to make it work and I'm sure it will change constantly. So we school and we play and we school some more when Ethan is napping and I think about all of the time I would be missing out on when it comes to my child's life if he were in a classroom for 8 hours a day. This works for us and makes us happy, though I know it does not work for others. However, at least three times a day you can hear me tell David, "I need you to act like a boy, not like an animal." Now some would gasp in horror at this quote, however, I am being literal. David has a genuine love of animals, and knows just about everything about every particular wild animal including the continent, and with some animals, the country in which they could be found, you name it, he knows it. How much do you know about the Oryx, the Topi, or how about an Ocelot...we know extensive amounts of information. I joke that I will one day lose my oldest to the grasslands in Africa, though I know it's no joke. Throughout the day I am not sure if David is being a hyena, lion, crocodile, zebra, etc. This is both in movement and in sound. While making dinner, I do not need David and his "pride" taking down a wildebeest, which so happens to be Ethan, who is generally at this moment playing quietly and nicely by himself. When questioning my oldest about bothering his brother while he is occupying himself, he gives me some kind of lecture about predators ambushing and stalking prey (and yes, he uses scientific vocabulary). I try and keep an encyclopedia within arms reach at all times to look up new animals that I've never heard of that he tells me about, and find it interesting that whenever we go to the zoo, David will rattle off tons of information about each animal we come across, and will correct the other children on what the animal is. Going to the Natural History Museum in Washington D.C. was a real treat as they showcase animals from all of the different continents and habitats. It was like David was home...a true dream come true for him!
Dave comes home at 3:30ish to take care of the animals, visits for a couple of minutes, and depending on whether I am on the ball or not for dinner, will eat dinner with us before he and David go to basketball practice. Practice usually ends at 7:30, about the time I get Ethan to go to sleep and after a couple of minutes of talking to David about our day and reading some books, he's asleep. Dave and I proceed to crash and it always amazes our sports players when we talk of the longing and excitement of being in bed by 8pm. Hey, what can I say, we like to live life on the edge!
So when you see me in public and I look like I've aged decades and I'm about to go crazy, refer me to this journal entry, to these pictures so I can again begin to see the big picture and what's really important in my life. I know that these times will fly by and one day I will truly miss being up all night with a teething or gassy child. Even though David has promised me that he will always curl up on my lap and let me rock him when I need that "mommy" feeling again, when I'm no longer "mommy" but am called "mom", I doubt I have too many years of snuggling left. So I guess for now, pay no attention to and pardon my disheveled look. Don't feel sorry for me...I've got two active and amazing beautiful boys and they'll be gone before I know it, so I'm loving and living life right now to the fullest. I hope you are doing the same...
Have a wonderful, memorable, and blessed Christmas and New Year from the Manning family to you and yours. We are truly blessed to have you in our lives, to be a part of our hard work and celebrations, and we wouldn't be here without your love and support for our family and farm. Though they have no idea why, our animals are always sure to get a special treat on holidays or on special occasions, because we feel these blessings and celebrations should be for them too. Feel free to stop by over the holiday season if you're in the area, we would love to have you, and the cows especially are always excited by visitors.
Things have been busy. I was always told winter was slower for farmers than the other months. I can't say that everyone that has told me that was wrong, so I'm going to chalk up this busy time to the fact that it is officially not winter yet. I can't even recall the last time I wrote, but I have the youngest one in his highchair with a snack and so I'm going to take advantage of the short time that I have and write. Generally I would take this time and start getting dinner prepared and ready to go since just like every other household, dinnertime = chaos and numerous interruptions. However, since it has been so long my dear friends, our family is going to take one for the team and forgo worrying about dinner in order to catch everyone up. We always try to put others first and instill that value in our children. So tonight, when everyone is starving, I will remind them about the need to put others before themselves and that our friends and family have been left waiting far too long without an update. That ought to calm everyone's hungry bellies. However, the reality is we're only having spaghetti tonight, so it's not going to be that hard to get dinner on the table.
We spent 5 days (not 4 like my husband said) in Washington D.C. and the kids had a blast. At least I know our oldest had a great trip as many of our youngest's pictures were of him parked in his car seat in front of an exhibit or zoo animal in a deep sleep. So when he looks back and says he's never been to Washington D.C. and he doesn't remember a lick...I can show him the pictures of why he would recall not a thing. I have the same types of pictures of him when we went to Philadelphia last year. I am guessing he is trying to relay the message that family outings for him are a bore and that he'd much rather be left to his own devices. Well, until he stays awake on our family outings, he's going to be forced to keep going on them, and he's going to like it! After returning from D.C., we were home for about a week then turned right around and drove to Philadelphia to visit my family. Phew, what a whirlwind of excitement the month of November was. Thankfully I was able to get all of my Christmas decorating done before Thanksgiving so that December could be a little bit more relaxing (which I didn't know was possible). The only thing I have had to do was put up the tree.
On a side note, the count for broken Christmas balls is as follows:
Dad -0 (no gloating, your time in the house is minimal in comparison to everyone else)
Nobody -1 (not sure how/why it fell)
*Now some would question why we still have Christmas balls on the bottom of our tree where our little one could reach. Well, for multiple reasons. The first being that David picked out the tree as he does every year, and it's not exactly "full", so we would literally have about 5 balls on the tree. Second, David never broke a ball until this year and never paid attention to the ornaments on the tree, and I feel that after 4 broken balls, Ethan should be over his fixation with the tree (or I can hope). Finally, we aren't exactly rolling in the dough and well, the child is going to need scholarships to get into college. so we're honing his baseball skills. So one day when he's got more money than he knows what to do with, he will graciously share it with his wonderful parents who have sacrificed a whole Christmas of Christmas balls. My hope is that he will repay us by replacing all of those broken balls.
Here is a picture taken of our family in Washington D.C. We were very lucky as 4 out of 5 days the weather was perfect and even hit 70* two of the days.
Part two of the post will be up tomorrow...
I began this post on Thanksgiving Day, but did not get it finished in one sitting.....imagine that......
Well, my wife and kids have left me....not for good.....to go to see family in Philadelphia area. I am here taking care of the animals. We left the farm as a family for the first time in 8 years last week. We took 4 days and went to Washington DC. It was a nice trip and we are thankful that we had such great help with the animals while we were away. Thanks Dad and Cindy! After that trip, I did not figure I could handle being away again. So I have stayed back. We still have plenty to do, but the animals are all in their winter homes. We have begun feeding the cows silage in the barn. They do look forward to it. Next to pasture, it is their favorite meal. Having all the animals in the barn does create a small dilemma, however. Over the past 5 years our goal has been to grow the herd to produce enough calves to replace our sale animals. While we are not quite there yet, we do have more heads than feed panels in the barn. I will be adding another panel tomorrow to take care of the situation. We have had a couple of great calving years. Our herd has grown a little quicker than we expected. But we built the barn to be added to, so the issue will be resolved tomorrow morning when I get another panel and install it. Then all our animals will be able to eat together again, not in shifts.
Reflection on our year to date will drive our production for next year. Some changes will be made, some things will stay the same, some will get bigger. Winter months give us time to think about our goals for the next year, crunch all the numbers (we don't get to them all during the summer), and decide where to go from here. On the list this winter is pasture expansion, turkeys (we may not be raising them next year), vegetables, and pigs. Let me elaborate a little.
Pasture expansion--did I mention our herd is growing? We are at our maximum capacity for cattle as we speak. We will be getting rid of some this winter, but they have been replaced with 12 calves that will be growing next summer. And we will be calving another 7 in the spring. We need more grass. Don't worry, though. We have it all figured out. We are planning a pretty big expansion project for the spring that will gain us another 20 acres of pasture. That will help out greatly with our numbers. It is our goal to have enough animals to take care of our meat customers, but also to sell as seedstock producers. We would like to sell bred heifers in the future. We need more grass to make this possible. So, that is in the works.
Turkeys-- while we had a phenomenal year for our birds, we are not sure if the turkey business is in our route. Today's turkey dinner was delicious! It almost makes me rethink my original thoughts of giving the birds up. However, we cannot do it all, and the turkeys take a lot more than we have to give. All of our equipment is chicken size. A 30 pound turkey is tough to process in our facility. I do not think that I want to upgrade. It was also pretty cold last Saturday processing the birds. Unless something drastically changes between now and June, I do not anticipate turkeys next summer.
Vegetables---we had briefly thought about expanding to the veggie market. We are done with that. We like to raise animals. We are sticking with them. The small scale vegetables can go to someone else. We will be raising our row crops (sweet corn, potatoes, and beans), but the rest is not for our operation.
Pigs----we would like to get back in the pig business a little more. We have 2 really nice gilts and a boar to start the new herd off right. We will be building some pig pastures this spring/summer to house them in and go from there. I do not see any issues with us getting back into hogs.
Chickens---they are definitely here to stay. We would like to increase our production this coming year. We had a fantastic year this year and believe that there are enough wiling customers to sell more next year.
Eggs---we will keep our production up this summer. Hopefully we will not have the mistimed molt of this year. We have a new set of layers going right now. They should lay right though next summer.