My in-laws, husband and I were still sitting at the kitchen table. Our day had begun more than an hour ago with some delicious breakfast tacos made with our scrambled farm fresh eggs. I was sipping the last of my second cup of coffee as our children chatted with us from their stools at the kitchen bar. The kids and I were still in our pajamas. It was a lazy morning on the franch. But, little did we know, that was about to change. My father-in-law was in mid-sentence when my husband suddenly got up and went down the hallway toward the laundry room. Before my father-in-law finished that same sentence, my husband was back with his overalls pulled over his jeans and his Franchlife long-sleeved t-shirt. He didn’t have to say anything to our children. Up they dutifully stood and carried their plates over to the sink. Our children know what daddy in his overalls means. It turns out our lazy morning didn’t last very long, abruptly ending at 8:52 a.m. It’s moments like these that I know why my husband’s father nicknamed him “light-switch” as a boy. It’s something he never grew out of it. You really don’t know what’s going to happen from one moment to the next with that man. “What are we going to do, daddy?” inquires our youngest as my husband helps her into her pink and white striped John Deere overalls. “We need to butcher the last of those chickens before your piano lesson this afternoon and I have to go to work.” When they all head out to the barn, my mother-in-law and I start to clean up the kitchen. The back door opens, “Kel—,” he doesn’t even finish my name before I yell back, “I’m coming, sweetheart!” even though I’m still in my pajamas. I grab a sponge to wipe the counter. My mother-in-law says, “He’s like a force, isn’t he? It’s amazing how you don’t resist the force. You just go with it.” (You know by the choice of her words that grandma gave into her grandkids last week and went with them to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens!). I reassure her that I don’t mind it most of the time because it makes every day of my life with her son an adventure. Her comments remind me of an email she wrote over a year ago after she read the first four blog posts on franchlife.com. It reads, “Your renderings are precious. You’ve reminded me of the basis of a recent Bible conference at our church. The speaker stressed for us to look at nuisances to life-challenging circumstances in our lives as, ‘What are you trying to teach me, Lord?’ Thanks, dear, for loving my son. If you didn’t know Jesus, I’m sure it would be a lot harder. You have to have extended much grace and forgiveness.” Of course, I had forwarded that immediately to my husband for a good laugh. I keep that email in my archives for those times my husband forgets what I put up with. His own mother knows what it takes.
My husband suggested that if I want more readers, I should share some of our tasty homemade recipes. I came across a Garfield book in the bathroom thinking about which recipe to share. Since Garfield loves lasagna, this one is for all you lasagna lovers.
Homemade Lasagna on the Franch
- Find dairy goat.
- Breed goat.
- Deliver baby goat.
- Milk goat.
- Use goat milk to make mozzarella goat cheese.
- Use the whey left over to make ricotta goat cheese.
- Grow tomatoes in garden.
- Make homemade spaghetti sauce from tomatoes.
- Use oven ready lasagna noodles (sometimes you just have to cut corners).
- Layer lasagna noodles with ricotta goat cheese, homemade spaghetti sauce, and mozzarella goat cheese.
- Sprinkle fresh parsley from windowsill and garlic powder from your father-in-law’s garlic patch on each layer.
- Bake in oven.
- Keep warm, as you never know quite when chores will be done.
- Serve with a tall glass of goat milk.
And that’s how you make lasagna on a franch. Sound easy enough?
It’s a brand new year! The party is over. It’s time for the resolutions! This year, I resolved to spend a little less time in the barn each day so I have a little more time to de-clutter my very disorganized home. I decided on that because it’s way better than, say, eating less chocolate!! And a quick Google search gave me lists of reasons why a de-cluttered home will make my life better. It turns out though that the most motivating reason is the one I found out for myself on the first day of the year — you may very well find something precious that was lost and forgotten in all that clutter. Under a stack of papers in a drawer of my office desk, I found a folded and wrinkled poem written to me by my husband during the first year of our life on the franch, only four years ago. It was the second time I ever read it.
We saw what could be a garden where there was a pile of soil.
We had big dreams for this garden, looking forward to the toil.
We talked of the green, fruit, and flowers,
Without any doubt the dream was within our power.
The task was daunting and grand,
But our desire was ready for any obstacle that might stand.
Tools news and unused, just like our muck.
Put to the task, with prayer and hoping for some luck.
We began turning the dirt,
Muscles, emotions, feeling the burn and hurt.
We knew it was up to us to make the garden that we had dreamed.
No one would do it for us, fill the gap between our hopes and what it might seem.
The grasses and wildflowers came up at first,
With the energy of youth, believing in better, we didn’t mind the curse.
Other bright flowers were planted and watered with love,
We searched for weeds and pulled them quickly from above.
The spring was beginning to warm with the sun,
The first years of our love had their share of fun.
We had our first bloom and what a blessing was she.
The most beautiful flower that we imagined we would ever see.
A tree began to grow, signs of strength and comfort in his eyes,
Still so small, but protector and calm would be his bind that ties.
A precious rose arrived with a beautiful smile,
As they often do, taking some nurture and a different style.
The garden required attention, love, and care,
So many challenges, unforeseen, always needing to be aware.
The garden looked so perfect in those few moments of calm,
But so many times busying to prepare for the storm.
Precious and unique in every way,
Cultivating and careful with them, always the first and last thought of every day.
Our love is the nutrients before and even now,
We can work the ground, sweat, and plow,
But in the end, a plant needs fertile soil in which to reach full prospect,
Without our love as the fuel, nothing would be nor could achieve respect.
As we see our bounty, be reminded that our love has taken us here,
And the greatest of these will achieve this garden, as we hold each other near.
Have you ever found something so dear lost in clutter? I’m looking forward to what else I may find going through our mess a little each day.
If asked to sing a Christmas carol, it isn’t likely the first one that pops in your head is “Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat…” But, now that I mention it, I bet you can sing the whole carol all the way through. I know Christmas is over, but sing one last carol with me,
“Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat.
Please put a penny in the old man’s hat.
If you haven’t got a penny, a ha’penny will do.
If you haven’t got a ha’penny, God Bless You!”
There is a story here… The Monday before Christmas as I was writing my grocery list for the week, I said to my husband, “Christmas is coming, what should I make for dinner?” I shouldn’t have said it that way, because it rang a bell and he sang the tune, “Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat…so a GOOSE!” “No way!” I said even before he finished saying the word “goose.” Our eldest daughter was in the kitchen with us and had recently read “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens in her literature class. One of the most famous Christmas dinners of all time is the one on Bob Cratchit’s family table. So she sided with him, “We had a Victorian-themed Christmas celebration at school, mom, so we ne-eee-ed to have a goose for our Christmas dinner!” I sighed and looked at my husband, “Fine, you roast it, I’ll eat it.” I don’t know why my husband was so surprised when it turned out that a goose isn’t easy to find. I don’t know anyone who has goose for Christmas. But, unfortunately for the goose, my husband doesn’t give up easily. After a dozen or so calls to local supermarkets and meat markets over a couple of days, he finally found a frozen goose one hour away! So, on Christmas Eve, there was a frozen goose on our counter. It wouldn’t fit at first in the refrigerator to thaw because I had that refrigerator stuffed full (partly because hidden on the bottom shelf was a ham I bought for a back-up meal should this goose turn out inedible). My husband was rearranging the refrigerator when I noticed the price tag on the goose had been ripped from the package. “How much did this goose cost?!” I knew my husband was hiding it from me! I managed to get my hand in his pocket before he knew what was happening, and pulled out the torn tag, “$76.74!!!!” Well, the tag didn’t have the exclamation points, but it should’ve! I told my husband to get his new fedora out and get looking for some ha’pennies! Of course, my husband suggested we start raising geese on the franch for that price! I didn’t say another word. In the end, that very elusive and expensive goose thawed, and Christmas came, and, on our dinner table, I must admit, was a perfectly roasted and delicious Christmas goose!
My husband is responsible for teaching medical students and residents on how to be emergency medicine doctors. Reading our stories of life on the franch, you may be thinking of how you want to know which ER he’s at with plans to avoid it. But, he’s actually really, really good at keeping people alive!! So, these students of his know a lot about how to save your life and also a lot about our life on the franch – some like to hear the stories and those who don’t certainly act like they do because, you know, there’s a written evaluation at the end of every shift. Recently, a resident emailed my husband & asked for a franch update to be published in their upcoming residency newsletter. I don’t know that my husband has ever responded to an email from a resident so quickly. He was so honored. And, this is what he wrote,
“Howdy. I appreciate being able to give an unforced update about the franch. Usually I force people to listen while I tell them about the franch. So, the cows are bred and growing their babies well. However, my daughter realized one of the cows isn’t ours. When we took them up to a ranch with a bull, we got the wrong one back. My daughter feeds them and has quite the attention to detail and figured out the one black and white one looks much different from the other black and white one. The goat is milking. She still limps a bit from the leg injury/sepsis thing, but the milk tastes good. I’m trying to get back into the cheese thing, but the lousy goat baby keeps drinking all my milk. The blind goat is now living large in Houston. He sure made out pretty well. Pretty lucky to be born blind, or he’d be at market a long time ago. Instead he lives as a mascot, wearing funny hats at a vet’s office and goes by the name Capt. Jack (see attached image). And don’t believe the lie that sheep eat quietly and serenely in a pasture. We got this one loud sheep that is so loud I can’t hardly take it anymore. I just wasted a thousand dollars on hay. I bought the hay because the stuff looks really good. Well, the cows won’t eat it. Everyday, I spend time trying to trick the cows into eating this hay. I put it in different feeders. I mix grain/other hay into it. I yell at the cows over and over to eat it. These bales are huge round bales, so there’s a real problem of what to do with this stuff. If anyone wants some really cheap hay, now is the time to offer me a really cheap price. And that’s all there is to know about life on the franch.”
The resident responded, “I was actually only looking for one, maybe two, sentences.”
Every now and then you need some fresh inspiration for why you do what you do. This old English Folk Song from the 15th century did that for me today.
Let the wealthy and great
Roll in splendour and state,
I envy them not, I declare it.
I eat my own lamb.
My own chickens and ham,
I shear my own fleece and I wear it.
I have lawns, I have bowers,
I have fruits, I have flowers,
The lark is my morning alarmer,
So jolly boys now,
Here’s to God Speed the Plough
Long life and success to the Farmer!
I don’t remember what I made for dinner the other night. But, I do remember the conversation. And now, you will too. We do our best to eat meals together as a family. It is said, “A family who eats together, stays together.” I’d edit that, adding to it, and say, “A family who eats and talks together and doesn’t forget to say grace stays together.” Our family talks about everything under the sun and in the heavens above after giving God thanks for the food on our table. In our home, there’s often talk of the latest on the franch. And so it went the other night…
“I’m going to castrate the bull calf tomorrow,” my husband said in such a matter-of-fact way you’d think he says it every day. “I’m going to be home in the morning and do it while you are at school, so you won’t be able to help…”
“Wait, dad, what does that mean…what do you have to do to Sunrise?” interrupted our six-year-old daughter. There was silence. My husband was about to drink his water but instead slowly lowered his glass without taking a sip.
“Ohhhh, um, well it means, that well,” he cleared his throat, “…I’m going to…I need to do something so he won’t be able to have babies anymore.”
Our daughter gave him a look like he was being silly…again. “Daaaad, boys can’t have babies…,” she corrected. She giggled like he was teasing her.
My husband looked at me pleading with his eyes for help. I just smiled back enjoying watching him squirm. He got himself in this situation, he can get himself out. I glanced at our two older kids who had stopped eating and were just staring at my husband.
My husband turned to our ten-year-old son who loves to read science books from the library on his own and just last year had come across a chapter on reproduction. By the way, I highly recommend that way!! It’s way less awkward. So knowing my son was “in the know,” my husband said, “I know, why don’t YOU explain it to her, son.”
Our son froze and stared wide-eyed at him like a deer caught in headlights. His eyes begged, please don’t make me… Breaking his promise to his fourth-grade teacher, our son began with, “Ummmmm….ookkaay…”
I realized our sweet, obedient son was actually going to try. I scolded my husband by saying his name sternly. Our son was off the hook and stopped fidgeting.
Finally, my husband came out with, “Well, boys, um…boys, you see, have to help with making the babies, and he, well he won’t be able to…help anymore.” True, but, that’s leaving out a lot of details! He’s not going to get away with just that, I thought.
We all looked in our daughter’s direction dreading the follow-up question. Will that be enough for her? And…lucky for my husband, it was. “Ohhhh,” she said nodding her head in understanding, like she now totally gets it.
The next day, my husband was late for dinner and we ate without him. Smart move.
“Smile!” I snap a photo of our award-winning children each cradling one of our backyard chickens in their arms. The chickens seem to know it’s a big moment and look my way. Our eldest has a first place ribbon dangling from her index finger for the best overall Polish Top Hat cockerel. Our son has looped his 1st place ribbon over the neck of an Australorp hen. Our youngest adjusts her wiggly chicken careful not to drop her 2nd place ribbon for the pullet class. I glance over at my husband, an alumni of 4-H, who, to this day, still finds ways to remind us of all his childhood 4-H experiences and awards. As I expected, his face is beaming with pride as his children follow in his footsteps. “I’m so proud of y–o—uuuuu!” he says hugging our youngest daughter, squishing the chicken between them. “Dad,” she humbly corrects, “Don’t be proud of me. Be proud of Bing-Bong!” I guess she’d correct me too and say the snapshot I just took is of our children holding some award-winning chickens.
It was the weekend of the county fair. Our kids look forward to it every year. My son says it’s “like a holiday” for him. We were on our way to the midway with the handful of rides spaced out nicely so to a small child it’s a grand experience. My husband reached out his hand to shake the hand of someone who was only vaguely familiar, and said, “Listen, man, I was coming off of a series of night shifts and hadn’t slept for 24 hours.” My husband then laughed, clearly at himself. The young man seemed to be thinking about what to say. He glanced at our children and then made eye contact with me. What my husband said and the reaction to it was enough for me to recognize him as the new technician at our vet office. Weeks prior, this poor guy witnessed my husband lose it over having to make the choice to euthanize one of our sweet and very loved baby goats. It had been the third day of trying to relieve some unexplained swelling of her head and face so severe that her eyes were swollen shut and her breathing was labored. We still don’t know the reason, though the vet guessed it was a horrible reaction to a spider bite or snakebite. Even though she kept getting worse no matter what the vet tried, for some reason, my husband never considered the possibility that she would die. Exhausted from seeing patients all night and teaching residents all day, my husband had arrived at the vet office ready to quickly discuss the next day treatment plan. He wasn’t prepared to walk in to see her gasping for her final breaths. So, my husband was remarkably emotional over the loss. A day later, after a good night of sleep, he felt silly about his overly dramatic response to the death of a goat. So, I said to the vet tech in a disbelieving and playful tone, “I heard it was rough after that goat died. Did he really open the cardboard box you handed him afterwards and quietly stroke the hair of our dead goat?” “Yep, he did,” he relaxed and laughed politely with us, and then went on to encourage, “Listen, I get it, we all have days like that…” Later, my husband and I laughed some more about the whole thing, not about what the vet tech did say, but what he didn’t say – such as “it wasn’t that bad” or “listen, I often see grown men cry after a goat dies in their arms.” We know it’s not really funny. “It’s kind of embarrassing, dad” suggested our pre-teen daughter. I say it’s sweet that my husband cares so for our animals and, more so, for our children who love them. The vet staff apparently felt very sorry for my husband that day and so, a week later, sent a handwritten note with words of sympathy addressed to him like “she is now frolicking in ever green fields,” “she was no doubt a fighter,” and “you gave her the best care but know she’s in a pain-free place now.” I don’t want to pick on my husband too much. Honestly, none of us handled it well. The kids and I shed milk buckets of tears behind our barn as we buried our young goat friend in the back corner of our pasture. It doesn’t matter how tough you think you are, you would’ve foolishly cried over a goat you didn’t know listening to our children say their final words and prayers beside her resting place. A week or so after the sympathy letter, a second envelope arrived from the vet office. It was the bill. For $ … well, let’s just say… it made us feel foolish. It was way more than you should ever spend on a goat no matter how much it’s loved. Unless you don’t mind being a fool. Which we don’t.