Moms & Grandmas

Before Christmas I did something a little crazy. 

I bought four draft horses for myself, three old Belgian mares and a Percheron.

Draft horses are the big, heavy work horses you see hitched to Amish plows and doing field work. I’ve always loved drafts, maybe because they’re so big and powerful, but also usually very gentle. I’ve loved watching them pull in competitions at fairs and the state farm show, and we even worked with a man who raised high-dollar Percherons – the kind you use for show, pulling wagons in a six or eight-horse team – for a while. 

I never really thought I’d own any myself, but I suppose I’m a bit of a workaholic and I guess I just got this nutty idea that I might get some draft horses and I’d be spending time with my girls and also doing something I never though I would…if it seems like I’m rambling, I probably am, because I still can’t quite believe I did this.

Anyway, I’ve been spending time with them, trying to get them to let me pet them without biting me. They weren’t wild or anything, but one of them has tried to bite a couple of us.

It’s been almost three weeks since we got them, and they’ll all let me walk up to them in the pasture now. Two of them come to me when they see me. 

So, I have head knowledge about horses. I pretty much read every horse book known to man when I was a kid, but my parents were clear about us never owning them. So I was never around them at all. I’m much more comfortable with cows. 

I can brush horses (although my girls laughed at me becuase I used the wrong brush the first time I did it), but I know they need their hooves cleaned out and that made me a little nervous. There’s something called a frog that is sensitive on their foot, and I wasn’t quite sure what that was, and the hoof pick was pointy, so I asked Pie to show me how to clean their hooves.

Melody is a Belgian, the tallest one we have. She’s also the first to come over to you in the pasture, just a real sweetie, but she has a little more spunk than the others, so Pie chose her to bring up to brush, because Pie is pretty confident around horses and loves a challenge. Harmony is another one of the Belgians. She’s the least friendly, and I know I need to work with her the most, so I brought her up to brush her. 

Julia watched us while Pie got the hoof pick and started telling me what she was doing as she lifted Harmony’s hooves and picked them out. She showed me the frog and how to clean around it.

I thought if anyone was going to give us trouble, it would be Harmony, and she definitely didn’t seem to be too comfortable lifting her feet. She is mostly likely an old Amish work horse, and, while the Amish take good care of their things, they also don’t waste time or energy or money doing anything that doesn’t need done. Caring for the feet of their work horses might fall into that category.

So, once Pie finished up Harmony, Julia said to Pie, “Now, let Mom do Melody’s feet and you watch her.”

Pie said, “I think it’d be better if I do them first, just to see how she reacts.”

Julia felt like I’d had enough instruction and needed to take the hoof pick and get to work, and she was arguing with Pie as Pie kept working, lifting Melody’s front feet and picking them out.

Melody wasn’t too keen on the whole process, so I stood in front of her, petting her and giving her a couple of treats – she’s so friendly and sweet and she loves treats – and a handful of grain, like that might take her mind off what Pie was doing and keep her calm.

After Pie had the two front feet done, Julia again strongly suggested that I take over. 

Now, in my defense, I was willing, but not super-eager.

I am totally comfortable with cows (and you don’t have to pick out their hooves, which is a big plus for the bovines), but horses act completely different. So when Pie said she’d do it, I was okay with continuing to watch and learn.

I mentioned Melody is our tallest horse. She’s maybe not quite six feet tall at the shoulder. I need a stool to brush her back. So she has pretty long legs. Her feet are rather large, too.

Anyway, Pie tried to pick up her back foot and Melody wasn’t interested. Pie got a little more insistant, and Melody threw a leg out. She wasn’t being mean or trying to hurt anyone, she just didn’t know what in the world Pie was trying to get her to do, and she didn’t really want any part of it.

Pie doesn’t quit any easier than I do I guess. (Less easy, since after Melody had thrown her leg at me, I think I would have re-evaluated the situation.) And she tried again. This time, Melody put a little more power behind her leg and she cracked Pie’s leg, right on the side of her knee.

That smarts. 

Julia laughed, but I could tell from the sound that it wasn’t a love tap. (When I milked cows in high school, we milked in a stable, where you have to go in beside the cow and put the milkers on. I got kicked plenty of times on the side of the knee, and, while that hurts less than a blow to the kneecap or shin, it’s still painful. The thigh is the best place to get kicked, if you get to choose, just saying.)

Anyway, I told Julia to quit laughing and not to laugh until Pie was laughing. 

Pie was definitely not laughing, since she was doubled over holding her breath. She has a pretty high pain tolerance, so you know it hurt. Just from the sound of the hit, I didn’t think anything was broken, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t hurt. 

So I went around and held Pie while she recovered, then thanked her for taking the hit that should have been mine. After all, the drafts were my idea. I also told her that we’re not picking Melody’s back hooves. I’m not sure what we’re gonna do. I love the horses (I’ll tell you about Faith, the Percheron some other time), and their feet need to be taken care of, but they’re not worth dying over. 

Alright, you’ll probably be hearing more about my drafts in here. That’s the farm project I’ve been working on. They’ve all been harnessed and have pulled farm equipment at least, and I thought it’d be fun to work on teaching them to pull a carriage. I don’t have a carriage. Or a harness. Or any knowledge of how to do such a thing, but I’ve always told my kids you can do anything as long as you trust God, know how to read and how to work. 

I guess we’ll see if I can.

In the meantime, Melody is still Pie’s favorite, and you can see a video we put together of Pie and Melody (several days after Melody kicked her) HERE.

The girls make fun of me because I’ve been working on TikTok videos for a while now and no one is interested in them, but Pie put up a couple that have gotten a bunch of attention. They videoed me getting on my horse (Faith). I would love to say I hopped on, but it was more like I clambered awkwardly – from the mounting block – and struggled a lot. And they wanted to compare that to Pie getting on Faith – she jumped up from the ground and got on without help. They were convinced that was a video everyone would want to see, but I couldn’t think that there would be a single person in the world who would want to see me look so pathetically inept. I suppose if you keep an eye out, the girls will put it up eventually. I mean, I hope they don’t, but they probably will because they think it’s hilarious.

Alright, I have a few questions I answer:

Are we ever going to get a full Charlene story? Ireally enjoyed the bonus scene. I want her and Charlie’s whole story. And what is the correct spelling for Arian’s name from the Heartland Christmas Cowboy books. In Christmas Cheer it is spelled this way and in the other books it is spelled differently.

I’d love to write Charlene’s full story, but I don’t have any plans on doing it soon. I’m sorry that’s not a very good answer, but it’s the best I have.

As for Arian’s name…That’s on my list of things I need to correct. Thanks so much for pointing it out!

Would you be able to do a primer on eggs? Why is there the dark flecks in brown organic eggs? Do you need to remove them before using? I ate farm eggs as a kid but I don’t remember seeing the flecks then. I’m never sure if I’m supposed to toss the whole egg, remove the flecks or go ahead and use the egg. I might be the only one interested in this. You talk about cows but not chickens and I think you raise those as well. Thanks!

Ha! Yes, we have 40,000 laying hens in Pennsylvania. I’ve never been able to record it, but one of my absolute favorite things to do is to walk the barn in the morning as the majority of the hens are laying and “deliver” eggs – ie, catch the egg as the hen lays it. Super cool. They’re wet when they come out, but dry quickly, and are a little sticky if your fingers are on them. I’ve always wanted to video it, but it’s kind of hard to do because you really need an angle from the bottom looking up, which is tough.

Anyway, to answer your question about the brown flecks. They’re harmless. They’re basically spots from broken blood vessels at the time of ovulation (according to the internet), and you can absolutely eat the whole egg and not worry about the spots. 

For me, eggs are good unless they smell bad. And it’s not like you have to work to decide. There is a reason we use the phrase “you smell like a rotten egg.” You crack them, they’re slimey and the odor is powerful. 

Sometimes you get bloody eggs, and I might not use those for meringue or dippy eggs, but they’re fine to cook with (same way a steak still has a little blood in it when you get it out).

I could tell you some stories about rotten eggs, but I’d better not. : )

But, basically, I do this:  if the egg doesn’t smell, it’s good. If it’s cracked, I probably won’t use it for dippy eggs or meringue, but I’ll still use it to cook with. The inside of an egg is sterile when it’s laid, and, although the shell is somewhat porous, it has a protective coating on it that keeps bacteria out. Once the egg is washed, that protective coating is gone, and that’s when you have to start being careful about the egg going bad.

In Virginia we have a few chickens and we do not keep our eggs in the fridge. We don’t wash them, but gather them and keep them in the cupboard. At room temps, they’ll keep for a long time.

We don’t wash the eggs in our laying houses, either. We send them to the packing facility unwashed. When the packing facility is ready to package them, they get washed before they’re put in the cartons. 

How fresh eggs are from the store really depends on the supply of eggs. Typically in the fall the supply is down, and our truck might arrive at the packing plant and back directly into the bay to be unloaded immediately. Some of those eggs might have been laid that morning and they could be in the grocery store the next day.

After Easter is usually when the supply is the greatest. Sometimes our trailers go weeks before they have room to unload them.

Right now the supply is low because of Avien Influenza causing some big houses out west to have to depop. (We’re talking millions of birds.) That decreases the supply, of course. I know the price of eggs (along with the price of producing them) has really gone up over the last few years, but the price that we’ve been paid for our eggs through that time has not changed. That might be a surprise to some of you, but I suppose that’s a discussion for another time. : )

I’m a little confused. You answered the first question with the ages of your childrens being”I’ve been married 28 years and my kids are 26, 24, 22, 20, 16 and 14.”

Then, in the second question, you say:”I have five children, one that’s been married for over a year—I love his wife like my own child.” 

So, you listed six ages, but say you have five kids. Are you counting your D-I-L as one of your kids? Or did you mis-type?Just curious,

So, I had a few people ask me this basic question after Friday’s newsletter went out. 

I have five biological children. 

In our home, we’ve always welcomed anyone. We’ve had drivers’ kids stay with us over the years, kids from church, and we even had a driver from Maine who lived out of his truck stay with us on weekends for several years. Smart guy. He taught my kids to play chess, but he was addicted to gaming and lost his wife and family and house because of that. 

Anyone who’s ever lived with us is just treated like part of the family. They work with us, they play with us, we take them wherever we go and they do what we do. My mom was always awesome at that – anyone who was living with us called her Nana like my kids do and Mom celebrated their birthdays and did Christmas like they were her grandkids.

Anyway, for the last few years we’ve had a girl staying with us – the one I call my middle daughter. Her home life isn’t great and God just kind of worked it out that she lives here. Although scarred by her bad family life, she’s super sweet, loves horses as much as Pie, calls me mom although she’s not adopted and we don’t have custody or anything. But I’m homeschooling her, treat her like I do my own kids and love her just as much. And when people ask how many kids I have, she’s included in the count.

Why did you decide to self-publish instead of going the more “traditional” route?

Actually, I did have a few books published with traditional publishers. After seeing how things work through a publisher, it was an easy decision to go indie. I’m pretty independent anyway. And we’ve always had our own businesses. I like being able to give my books away if I want to, and I like making my own schedule. I can work with people I choose, and I can pivot in whatever direction God wants me to go immediately. For me, there isn’t a downside, other than maybe it can be exhausting wearing all the hats. I can see how trad publishing might be more appealing to some people, and that’s great for them. : )

Thanks so much for spending time with me today!

Hugs and love,


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