Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Reflections on the last year.

I figured I had posted about my goals for the up coming year I should post how far we have come in the last year.  This is actually the Christmas letter I send out to friends and family along with our card.

2010 has turned out to be as adventurous if not more than 09'. One thing we don't do is lead a dull life. Our travels took us to visit with family. Which are our favorite kind of trips. Yes our kids are growing like weeds and we seem unable to convince them to stop. So here it is in a nutshell the Grayson 2010.

In attempts to find a way to add income to the home without sacrificing our homeschooling lifestyle we tried our hand at many things this year. Some were good but were more work than they were worth and a couple turned out to be successful. First was the local farmers market. I spent hours over the winter months teaching myself to make artisan breads and homemade pastas. We decided we love it, so why not try to sell it? So each Saturday and some Tuesdays we would take a stash to the market. It was a big hit. We consistently sold out every week and I guess you could call it successful, but the time and energy it took to make everything proved to be a bit much. Though we loved getting to meet all the people at the market and the kids had a great experience taking quarters to feed our pony and greeting people at our booth.

Then was “Farm Camp”. This endeavor was like the best of both worlds. I had 10 children from 8:30-11:30 for a week. We did all kinds of things from learning to milk, to making cheese, baking, riding horses, gardening and even a camp out on the farm. I wanted to give them a fair picture of the farm life though so they also got to do chores including feeding animals, cleaning stalls, hauling wood and weeding the garden. And what do you know the kids LOVED doing the chores. Parents were asking how I did it.

We also started doing “Pony Parties” . We will load up our little miniature horses, goats and even the bunny and bring them to your back yard for any event. We did parties and even a church VBS. This was one of our favorite adventures and we have decided to pursue more events in the future. There is nothing like giving a little kid their very first ride on a horse.

Then there was the pumpkin patch. It sounded like a good idea, really it did, but I don't see this anywhere in our near future. It had it's great parts and we are happy that we not only broke even on the costs but maybe made $20..haha. With only working 4 weekends split between the 5 of us we all made about $1 a weekend. No in all seriousness there were some really great times and the people who came absolutely loved it and well, now we know what we are good at!

Adding all of that and not to mention the fact that we doubled the size of our garden. This also being the first year we started all our plants from seed. Kept up with all of the canning. Raising 5 turkeys, homeschooling and of course the regular day to day of living on 15 acres. Among that, these other adventures the year took us on.

We got to witness birth on our farm for the first time. Triplets from one goat and a single baby from another, sadly though she lost that baby but she gladly became a surrogate Mama for one of the triplets. One thing we have had to learn to handle is the loss of animals. Though I'd like to think it gets easier with time but really is just as sad each time. Though the kids handle it so well and seem to understand it all even better than I sometimes. We had three bouncing, literally, baby goats. Two found great homes and one stayed on our farm.

We started our adventures in milking! I chose to milk one of our goats this year and boy was it a learning experience. With weeks of battles, with a goat that really didn't want to be milked and a woman who really didn't know what she was doing. We finally figured it out and actually started to enjoy it. Everyone LOVED the milk with the exception of Ryan who really never gave it a fair try. With with the excess of milk I tried my hand at cheese making and it is oh so yummy. Now Ryan didn't care for the milk but the cheese he loved. It was a great experience and we will continue to it do next year!

Another adventure we had was teaching ourselves how to make homemade maple syrup. We tapped 2 of our 9 maple trees. After collecting sap for about a week we ended up with about 5 gallons of sap. And after it was all said and done we enjoyed all of about 2 cups of delicious syrup. It takes about 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup! We are planning to tap all 9 next year. It was a great family experience.

At butcher time we had 4 big healthy turkeys. We may not grow them out as long next year considering all 4 were between 30-35 lbs dressed!!! We have LOTS of turkey in the freezer! We ground over 30lbs and are surely enjoying it and the health benefits of using turkey instead of beef. We dined on one of those turkeys for Thanksgiving this year. The Grayson family came to share it with us again. We hope to make this a tradition because it is one of our favorite times of the year.

We took a vacation driving and stopping to camp on our way down to the gulf coast. Seeing some beautiful parts of our country along the way. One being Cumberland Falls, KY. The girls were amazed at the sight of the first waterfall they have ever seen. In Alabama we visited and caught up with Aunt Marilyn and Uncle Harry who took such good care of us it was hard to leave. Cousin Amanda and the girls made their way from WV to see us and we all had a great time. Along with many other friends and family we got to see this year made it so very special. Are you tired yet? Cause we sure are. The good news is that was the end of our adventures, for this year at least.

Kelcie, now 4 with the personality of a 30 year old. Loves to grow up way too fast and still protests when we call her our baby. She LOVES to do “school” and will sit for hours working on pages I give her to do. We hold her tight and ask her to pleeease stop growing and to no avail it seems. One of her favorite past times is to snuggle and she is oh so good at it.

Macy, 5 started kindergarten in our local school district this year. We do plan to bring her home in the first grade to start her homeschooling adventures. She LOVES school and looks forward to going everyday. The beginning of the year she was disappointed on Saturdays because there was no school. She is really looking forward to this being her first year to be able to ride horses in 4-H. I think I am successfully passing my love of all things equine on to my little girls. Ryan will surely sympathize with their future husbands.

Elaina, 7 oh the difference a year can make when you are 7 going on 8. She has blossomed into a lovely young lady. Not a little kid anymore and though we protested that fact we are quite proud of who she is becoming. If she is not out caring for the horses or riding horses, then she is pretending that she is a horse. She did get her very own horse this year. She named him Moonlight. Elaina and Amy have enjoyed many many hours out on the trails together. That time is surely cherished. Her schooling is going great though the beginning of the year we struggled to balance school with the pumpkin patch. She is on track now and there are days she is in working at her desk before I even wake up in the morning. A second grader willing doing their school work, it's a hard enough life but someone has to do it. Really though as her parents we are grateful for such a lovely child and we know she is a gem!

And just because I will throw in a little update on Ryan and I. What we have found is that with the children getting bigger we have a few more moments here and there to start to pursue our interests. This year with Ryan's support I have gotten to fulfill a life long dream of owning my very own thoroughbred jumping horse. It has been such a great experience and after living without horses in my life for the last 15 years I am grateful for every day I get to own these magnificent animals. And that is what has pretty much consumed every free minute (and dollar) I have and I am loving every moment. I have been able to start training for the sport of eventing:dressage, jumping and cross country combined into one sport. Steady Smiler came straight from the racetrack and actually had an impressive racing career winning over $350,000. It takes a tremendous amount of work to get a racehorse from track life to farm life. They honestly don't even understand how to graze in a field. In our efforts to succeed at the sport of eventing and becoming healthier and fit I have lost 35 lbs and still working toward better fitness. We competed in our first event mid-November and won in our division! I was on cloud nine for quiet some time after that and you couldn't wipe the smile off my face.

As for Ryan he is, in all of it, every step of the way, with each idea, project and dream I scheme up he is the backbone. Strong, steady and supportive, rarely thinking of his own wants. For him we are all grateful. Over the last 7 years his golf game has been, well, mostly non-existent. This year he has spent more time on a golf course than he has in probably the last 7 years combined. Which really isn't saying much but hopefully next year he will be able to spend even more time golfing. It is something he truly enjoys. We could not be more grateful for his job, the people he works for and the opportunities it presents him. Working in the healthcare industry he has found nothing moves quickly but over the past two years he has built relationships with customers and is growing his territory weekly. So much so that the company has rewarded him with a trip with 24 other sales people to Naples, FL. He is obviously looking forward to that coming in March.

It may sound that our lives are crazy which in many ways they are but the reality is we purposefully live a quiet and simple life. The most important thing to us is that all of our endeavors are done together as a family. Ryan, I and the girls together, loving our lives and working together to please our Savior with who we are and what we do is our ultimate goal in this life. Once again another year has past and we are thankful for those of you we were able to connect with again and those we didn't, we miss you and hope to soon. You are always welcome at our farm! We promise to feed you well, take good care of you and give you a feel of our hard working yet simple life!

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