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Meet the Goats!

It finally happened! After years of dreaming, months of scheming, and lots of patience from my husband as we prepared our land to become a mini-farm, we brought home three of the cutest goats you’ve ever seen!

We picked them up on Good Friday, April 2. It was such an exciting day! As we got them settled in their pen, it felt surreal. My daughter said, “Mom, does this mean we live on a farm?”

“Yes,” I said. “It sure does!”

It has been a true gift to watch my kids and their friends enjoy all that we are building here. Children who have never seen a farm animal reach out in wonder as a doeling or buckling eat out of their hand or nibble on their shoelaces. Adults have called me out of the blue because they want to come play, and neighbors’ kids show up with big smiles because they were just out back with the animals.

“If you build it, they will come,” right?

God has big plans for this little farm. Plans that stretch beyond milk, vegetables, eggs and soap. Creation declares the glory of God, and I am seeing it happen here, in this place surrounded by trees, water, and blue sky. Here, where the roosters crow in the distance as cattle noisily greet the dawn from across the road. Here, where animals teach us how to get along, cats and dogs playing together as the goats learn to trust their new protector and the barnswallows fly about just overhead. It seems metaphors are leaping out all around me these days, and I believe God will give me much to share with you. So, without further adieu, I would love to introduce you to the goats of Arundelle Green…

As if our goats weren’t enough to be excited about, work is well underway on our most incredible chicken coop! It is going to be a one-of-a-kind masterpiece that will surely be the backdrop of many portraits and picnics. It is nearing completion and our hens will come home shortly after. I will be back to share photos when it is finished.

Have a wonderful day! If you need me, I’ll be out back with the goats.

Blessings, from Arundelle Green.

Meet Curry!

Even though I built a sturdy shelter for our soon-to-arrive goats, I have been a little nervous because we have an abundance of predators out here. Most are nocturnal, but not all. There have also been spottings of coyotes during daylight hours, as well as reports of big predators like mountain lions (though we are not in the mountains, but close enough) and an occasional stray dog that could take down a small animal.

My husband and I pondered the possibility of a livestock guardian. We had a German Shepherd who passed away two years ago, and we missed our big boy. After a little research we decided a Great Pyrenees mix would be a good fit for our burgeoning mini-farm. I searched Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and the local animal shelter for possibilities. Great Pyrenees puppies are expensive, so I was hoping to “catch a bargain,” so to speak.

A couple of weeks ago, someone posted a photo of a beautiful Pyrenees that had been taken to the animal shelter. A stray. I thought, “Oh, what a pretty dog,” and went on with my day. After all, he would surely be claimed by his owner.

Surely.

The next day my oldest daughter went on a day-date with her boyfriend to the animal shelter. She texted a short video of a dog, declaring it to be the sweetest dog who was the only one not barking (a definite plus!) and I recognized him immediately as the dog I had seen online the day before! He was still there.

The following day was a Saturday, so I hauled my three youngest to the shelter to see if he was available and how he interacted with them. My son, who is 14, was excited because it was his turn to name one of our pets and he already had a name in mind. Davis is a huge basketball fan, and Steph Curry is his favorite. It was an easy choice! We walked up and down the rows of cages until we found him.

Love at first sight.

As we loved on this sweet boy, a volunteer saw us and approached with a smile. We told him we were looking for a livestock guardian, that the dog would live outdoors with goats. He nodded and said this dog would be perfect for that job. He told us they get Pyrenees through there all the time because people don’t realize how much this breed needs to work, so they get bored and run away. After a while, owners get tired of chasing after them and give up.

We had to wait a few more days, in case someone claimed him, but no one ever came. They asked us to bring our little dogs to the shelter to meet him on neutral ground, and it’s a good thing because Clara and Hollie were not exactly welcoming. After much growling and snarling (from the little dogs…the Pyrenees just wanted to play!), we welcomed home the newest addition to Arundelle Green!

Meet Curry!

The volunteer offered to take a photo…and Curry was so excited he gave me a big hug!

Curry spent his first week home in a cone because he had been neutered and wouldn’t leave the incision alone. He handled it like a champ, though, and is now cone-free. He had his first vet visit and it turns out he is still a puppy! She estimates he is 10-12 months old and still has some growing to do. At 79 pounds already, he is going to be a big boy!

We love him.

He is, indeed, a perfect fit.

And now to bring home the goats…

It’s a flurry of fur and happiness here, at Arundelle Green!

Creating Space

As I stepped outside this morning to gauge the temperature my senses were assaulted by the sounds of hundreds of birds singing joy from the Shadow Wood. One perched nearby seemed to be proclaiming, “hello, hellooooo!” as the geese glided gracefully across the pond. A chilly early spring breeze blew strong, threatening to topple the potted plants I had just placed on the side porch to reintroduce them to the outdoors once again after spending winter inside.

Sometimes I pinch myself. I can’t believe I live here.

It’s been eight months since we moved to Arundelle Green, so this is our first experience with Spring on these eight acres. I was working in the goat pens just yesterday, preparing shelters for our doelings and buckling who will come home soon, and noticed the tree that was lucky enough to be enclosed within the fencing is loaded with buds.

From what I can see, it looks like the flowers will be white.

I have been consumed with preparations for the mini-farm we are building. It has been a true source of joy to wield power tools as I built a simple three-sided shelter and converted a dog kennel into a safe nighttime haven to protect our kids from coyotes. We are also on the hunt for a Great Pyrenees mix to grow up alongside the goats as their friend and protector, and plans for the chicken coop are coming along.

With the completion of the Library my attention has turned to organizing my office. It is kind of a mess right now! There are so many random things in baskets that I don’t even know half of what is in there. I’ll probably be tossing a lot of unused and unneeded items, which will leave some shelves empty. And that’s ok. White space is healthy.

Speaking of white space…

Life at home has been incredibly busy and my days are full, which made me realize I need to simplify. Pull back. Focus on what is at my fingertips and do that well. So I did and I am. I had spent the past few months overcommitted and stretched thin. I struggled to sleep and struggled even more to focus and enjoy something as routine as a movie night with my family because the lists running through my mind were relentless. So I tore up some lists, quit a few things that were good but not best for me in this season, and intentionally created margin where I had none, space for quiet because I need to hear the whisper of God and snuggle my teenagers.

Just in time, too, for all around us Creation is putting on a spectacular show. The daffodils are in full bloom and I have been picking up potted flowers here and there to fill my side porch with color.

A mama goose is heavy with eggs and her mate stays faithfully with her, awaiting their tiny arrivals even when the rest of the flock is soaring high above. Sunsets have been spectacular, creating a golden hour that is magical.

See Ashton in the corner? He is always on the hunt 🙂

The Shadow Wood, bare from winter, is beginning to come alive with green.

Soon, the roses will be blooming and vegetables will fill my gardens. In all these things, God speaks to me. He reminds me of the patterns of life that have been in place long before I was even born. The repetition of the seasons, the predictability of a dogwood blooming, seedlings emerging from prepared soil, echo His faithfulness and care.

I don’t want to miss any of this, and in my busyness I was becoming fearful that I would. I needed to take time to slow down and see what is right in front of me, the beauty of Creation coming alive to declare the glory of the Creator. Busyness makes me blind. Lack of margin leaves me exhausted. He says to be still, and if we are wise we will heed those words.

For in the stillness there is a breeze blowing, cattle lowing in the distance and the sound of water bubbling along the creek as the farmer down the road drops a fresh bale of hay among his flock of hungry goats. The cardinals are visiting the feeders once again and the blue heron just landed silently along the waters edge.

Beauty abounds if only we will stop and allow our senses to take it in. Spring is arriving in all it’s glory here, at Arundelle Green.

If you need me…

I’ve been skipping around in a happy daze, arms full of books as I realize a dream that has come true. When we moved to Arundelle Green we knew a formal living room would sit unused. What to do, what to do? Our home, though spacious and beautiful, had only one tiny wall of bookshelves upstairs. We stood in that empty room and inspiration flickered. What if we turned it into a library? We have so many books, boxes upon boxes collected over a lifetime that had been stored away in our previous home due to lake of space. As we unpacked last summer, we piled the books up along a wall and dreamed…

What if those bare walls held beautiful, dark-stained shelves laden with literature?

What if all the books scattered throughout our house had a central home, where family and guests could peruse full shelves, then nestle into that comfy leather chair while they get lost in a story?

And what if our library had a ladder?

The beginning of something wonderful…

So we dreamed and planned and contracted with a local carpenter to make our dream come true. At last, installation day arrived.

These men brought the shelves into our house in four HUGE sections.

After three hours of hard work, the last of the sawdust was swept away and I stood, inhaling the scent of fresh-cut wood as what I had seen in my mind stood before me in all it’s glory.

May I present to you…the Library at Arundelle Green.

I am dreaming of “far-off places, daring sword fights, magic spells, and a prince in disguise” as I tuck each beloved volume into it’s proper place while steam rises from the coffee just brewed in my long-neglected and resurrected Nespresso.

Oh yes, we also included a coffee bar. Be still, my heart.

If you need me, I’ll be in the library “with a dreamy, far-off look…and her nose stuck in a book.” (And you just might find me singing from high atop the ladder!)

Now that our library is complete, I’ll be popping in here to share our current favorites for adults and children alike, as well as ideas for reading to your kids that will help you build sweet memories. Reading aloud is truly one of my favorite things to do with my children.

For now, enjoy what has been playing on repeat in my happy brain this week!

Miracle on the Farm

After two days of freezing rain, we awakened to a beautiful snowfall. Hoping to break out the sled (for the first time in many years) I trekked out to explore and take some photos of ice-covered branches and the animals excitedly traipsing about, oblivious to the cold.

I walked near the pond, hoping to capture the beauty of Arundelle Green blanketed by six inches of snow. 

I looked off to the right, raising my phone to take a picture, when I heard a crumbling sound.

In slow-motion I turned to see my dog, Clara, in the water. She had stepped out onto the ice, having no idea that it couldn’t hold her weight. Clara’s eyes were huge with fear as she frantically paddled and tried unsuccessfully to get a grip on the ice and pull herself out.  I was alone and knew there was not time to run for help.  She would not survive.  I called her name, wishing she had fingers to grab a branch, and tentatively stepped into the water as I thanked God for Muck Boots. One, two, three steps and I could almost reach her. With my arm outstretched as I prepared to grab her, I focused on her face, willing it to stay above the surface. The frigid water was getting deeper and starting to pour into my boots. One more step and the pond-bottom dropped off, throwing me sideways and up to my waist in water.  I managed to get hold of one of her front legs as I fought for footing, and hoisted her with all my strength to solid ground. Somehow, I managed to climb out of the pond as my legs went numb and my daughter came running, having no idea what had just happened. I screamed for her to get her dad as I fell again.  My legs felt foreign and I realized I was dangerously cold.  My husband came out of the house, confused, and I told him what happened.  He had just donned winter clothes to come join in the fun. He grabbed my shoulders to help me walk as we turned to locate the cats who had come out to join us, expecting they were following closely behind.

Then, our beautiful black cat, Rosa, dove into the pond.

In what felt like a slow-motion nightmare, she dove in, pawed at the surface for a moment, and disappeared.

My mind went numb as my daughter screamed.  I cried out to Jesus, begging for mercy. I told her to go inside because I did not want her to see her cat die and watched my husband tread into that frozen water, desperately scooping at it as all hope vanished.  Minutes passed. I begged him to come out, afraid he would get frostbite or worse, knowing there was no way she was still alive.

I couldn’t even cry. I just kept whispering, Jesus, please.

Yet my husband persisted. He turned in circles, splashing everywhere, trying to find her. My son came out of the house and ran down to help. I went to try and comfort my devastated daughter, when my son came running up and said they had found her.

She was alive.

As my husband searched the pond she came traipsing across the bridge from the other side with a bird in her mouth. She was wet, but fine.

She was fine.

There was not a second set of paw prints to tell us where she got out.

We all saw her jump in, but no one saw her climb out.

And I am just going to say, right here, that I believe God heard our cries and miraculously transported that stupid cat to safety with a bird in her mouth, no less, because He knew the limits of trauma my daughter could bear and He knew we needed this.

He knew and I am so thankful for His mercy.

This photo was taken before all the drama. I can assure you I was not trying to take pictures with frozen fingers!

The cat is fine.  The dog is fine.  My husband and I spent the rest of the day shell-shocked and exhausted, but we are fine. 

God…He cares about the little things.

He was right there with us.

Everything was in place to allow the events to play out so God could remind us that there is a very real supernatural plane that we have yet to comprehend. He defies space and time and, today, we witnessed it.

I am in awe of the ramifications of this reality. Today, the veil was very thin. 

I am so grateful.

So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

2 Corinthians 4:18 (HCSB)

Building Fences-because GOATS!

It’s a big day here at Arundelle Green. After months of dreaming and planning (and scheming…convincing my husband that goats = joy!) the truck arrived with wood and wire and four strong guys to make another permanent mark on the land:

fencing for the goats.

Over the weekend I hired a local handyman with a chainsaw to cut down a huge cedar stump that would have acted as a launchpad for the goats to escape over the fence. I had kicked around the idea of renting a chainsaw and doing it myself, but thought better of it after my kids’ eyes widened in horror at the thought! Good thing, too, because that stump was THICK and the cedar was so old it had hardened, making it difficult to cut.

At last the stump fell away, exposing hidden treasure. The wood was a beautiful red and the smell…heavenly. We are going to roll it into the middle of the pasture for the goats to climb on.

At three feet in diameter and about four feet long, this old stump will be a perfect climbing toy.

I put down a deposit yesterday for two beautiful doelings. One is a twin, just three weeks old. The other is a triplet who is just over a week old and almost didn’t make it because her mama’s milk was slow to come in.

But she did, and I asked my husband if it isn’t perfect that we would get the little bitty one who almost didn’t survive? Isn’t that what our place was destined for?

So, we are in major preparation mode. Besides the fence going up, I purchased the materials to build a simple run-in shelter and plan to build it next week. After that I will start gathering supplies…feed, emergency meds, etc. to ensure our doelings survive and thrive. I’m excited to have another excuse to play with wood and power tools and can’t wait to see our sweet goats grazing in their new pasture!

Right now the plan is to bring them to Arundelle Green on April 2. We will be freshly home from a trip to Dollywood (yay!) and ready to dive into life with our beautiful new girls! We even have names picked out…

but that’s another post. 🙂

Dreaming of Spring

We are well into January and blazing toward February as I write this. Here in Tennessee, Winter has really just begun. We’ve had a couple of pretty dustings of snow, just enough to make us wish for a “big one” so we can get some use out of our long-neglected sled, but my affections are quickly turning toward Spring.

I ordered a seed catalog that should arrive any day now, and found myself saving egg cartons and dreaming of seed packets this past week. It’s still a bit early to start seedlings but the itch has begun.

Ducks moved into our ponds the other day, gliding gracefully across the ripples water and bringing life to the dormant winter-scape. Flocks of birds have danced overhead, noisily visiting the Shadow Wood and congregating on the front field as they peck away among the brown grasses that stopped growing months ago. I realized I need to refill my bird feeders. I’ll do that tomorrow.

The kittens have become cats and claimed our back porch furniture as their napping spot. When it gets below freezing they retire to the pool house garage via the doggie door where a brooding lamp beams down on their bed for warmth. I’ve spent some time in the shop, learning a few things about power tools and what not to do when building simple furniture…

but that will be a discussion for another day.

I’m ready for Spring.

I’m ready for the dormant to burst open green and flowers to hang heavy on their stems. I long for crepe myrtles and hydrangeas in full bloom along with daffodils and hyacinths scenting the air with their magic. I yearn for a basket full of tomatoes and peppers, green beans creeping up their trellis and okra sliced ready for roasting.

We are in that long, dull stretch of Winter that can feel depressing, the season in which we find ourselves seeking sunlight and dreaming of a beach vacation because our bodies are craving Vitamin D. But it won’t be long. Just a few weeks from now we will see the beginnings of the change and find ourselves emerging from the hearth to greet the sunny mornings barefoot amidst the birdsong that will soon fill the air.

It won’t be long, now.

Into the Woods

On New Years Day I finally ventured into the woods to explore beyond the old farm fence and find the creek.

In our garage I found a huge, heavy set of wire cutters…

…and set out to clear a path.

It didn’t take long to trek through the trail my father had cleared back in October. Winter has effectively cleared a lot of the underbrush and the English Ivy lies dormant and easy to step through until Spring. Within a few minutes I reached the old farm fence. One area has been bent low by a fallen tree, so I decided that would be the path of least resistance and began to cut the old wire.

As I worked through the wire (which ended up being more difficult to clear than I thought due to years of entangled vines and sections buried under decades of leaves twigs) I realized it was deeply embedded in the tree to which it had been nailed. In fact, in the photo below it is almost indistinguishable from the vines that surround it, but if you look closely you can see where it disappears beneath the scrubby roots of one of the vines.

After much wrestling and bending of stubborn fence-wire I finally emerged on the other side, looking back on the fallen tree over the fence for the very fist time.

I stepped carefully, remembering I was treading on ground that was once occupied by the Cherokee, a space that had been barred by that wire fence from grazing farm animals and (apart from an occasional visitor from the creek side) rarely touched by modern human feet. I was glad I was alone. The moment felt sacred.

Along the way I was mesmerized by the beauty of the Shadow Wood. Fallen trees and branches lay in an almost artistic cross-hatch of rugged design, textures beckoning me to draw closer and run my fingers along the rippled and ruffled edges of moss and lichens.

I knew I was drawing close to the creek. Through the maze of trees and underbrush, beyond a flock of birds high in the woods, I heard the distinct sound of running water. Another step, breaking a dry stick beneath my feet, and the sound startled the birds who went suddenly silent and bolted in a panic above my head. In the resulting silence my ear tuned in even more closely to the babbling sound that lay beyond and I followed it.

At last, I found it. Opening wide before me the creek bubbled and flowed. High from the recent rains, the water danced through the meandering path it had cut through the woods many, many years ago. Today it appeared more river-like in it’s rushing.

I explored the water’s edge for a few minutes, even capturing video footage so I could remember the sound. I breathed deeply the fresh air and praised the Maker of it all. How many hidden gifts lie in these woods? Along this creek?

And what magic will happen when it snows?

Surprise, Surprise!

Last week our pool guy came for his weekly maintenance. He is a cat lover, so he always enjoys checking in on Ashton and Rosa, commenting on how they’ve “got it good” with a chuckle. He is generally full of friendly advice and very helpful.

On this day, the kittens were exploring the yard in the unusually warm December sun. Rosa (the black cat) slowly moved among the rosebushes while Ashton (the grey tabby) was on the hunt, stalking something hiding beyond the gate.

“That one’s a boy, right?” The pool guy watched Ashton closely.

“No, it’s a girl,” I said.

“You sure?”

“Yeah, well…yeah. The lady we got them from said they were both girls. I mean, she looked at them and said they were…girls, I mean.”

You know where this is going, right?

I went into the garage attached to Autumn House, where I had spent most of the day organizing all the junk we had thrown in there back in July. Ashton followed me and I decided to, you know, take a look.

Lo and behold, there was…something, some things there that were NOT there when we brought her…it…him home!

I carried her/him outside and showed “it” to the pool guy and he laughed.

“How could you tell?” I asked.

“I know my cats!” he laughed throwing his head back. “You got yourself a tomcat!”

I’ve got myself a tomcat.

So now we have had to adjust our pronouns! Poor Ashton, he gets called she/he often and we just grin because now that we know it seems so obvious! It’s a boy, and now we have to deal with the, um, issues that presents.

So, it looks like he will be visiting the local vet soon for a little snip-snip.

Ashton in front, Rosa in back. Notice how much bigger he is? It’s all making sense now.

Bless his heart.

Awaiting Arrival

I recently talked to a girl about some goats…

when I got off the phone I squealed in excitement. She has several females due in January and we are on the list for at least two!

It’s happening! At last!

Then I looked out the window toward the Shadow Wood and my heart raced fearfully just a little. After all, I have no idea what I am actually doing. What if I fail? I’ve only had dogs (and now cats) and, of course, have raised several children but ,lets be honest, nothing is as easy at it seems on YouTube or in those how-to books. (Again…I have children. I can assure you, after almost twenty-one years of motherhood, the parenting books LIE.)

So I did what any nervous wanna-be mini farmer would do. I made a cup of coffee and looked up cute videos of baby goats.

Because, y’all, baby goats.

My daughter with one of my brother’s babies back in July.

Before long I felt better. I remembered watching my nieces handle the animals on their farm. I reminded myself of how much laughter those sweet creatures induced. My youngest niece, at only six years old, is in her element among these gentle animals. I began to imagine goats grazing the land between Autumn House and the Shadow Wood and recalled another important fact–that five teenagers have survived my parenting. Five.

I’ve got this.

Then I thought, “Hmmm, maybe we should also get a miniature donkey.”

I might be crazy.