Finding Our Homestead and Smelling Roses

Embracing God’s grace along the way.

We decided to move to Tennessee for many practical reasons, but mainly because we felt we were following God’s plan. But how could we possibly know for certain. This uprooting of our lives, selling our home, and taking a leap was very sudden. And, yes, there were moments of doubt and uncertainty, but along the way God would give us enough of a glimpse to keep us moving forward along the path.

Once our decision to move was made, I quickly set the wheels in motion. We decided to move Thursday (see my December 9th post and I called my California realtor Friday morning. I told her I was putting our house on the market, and we met that day. I immediately began the steps necessary to sell the house – mostly purging, packing, and painting. The weekend was a blur with sleepless nights and house cleaning days.

By Monday morning I was exhausted. I knew I needed to find a realtor in Tennessee, but I had a busy day ahead and told myself it could wait until Tuesday. I made my breakfast and sat down to eat when I felt a prompting to call one of the recommendations I had collected for realtors in Tennessee. I had three numbers. Two of the numbers had names included with the realtor’s number. The third was just a number. I decided to call the third.

I pressed the number into my phone, listened to the rings, and heard a voice on the other end.

“This is Joshua Christian.”

The name Joshua is an English translation for the Hebrew word Yehoshua which means “Yahweh is Salvation.” Joshua is also an English derivative of the name Jesus. (Joshua – Wikipedia)

So, when I heard over the line

“This is Joshua Christian.”

I thought, of course you are. I call a number with no name on a whim, and I get Joshua Christian.

That morning, Joshua Christian became our realtor.

And he did a great job. Joshua understood what we were looking for and we began the search based on a price range and location radius.

But looking at the properties for sale, nothing felt right. The market was slim and anything that was a good deal was getting purchased quickly. After a week I began to worry. So, without letting Joshua know, I increased our price point and expanded our search radius. And I found it.

I found a property meeting our acreage and resource requirements, with pastures and ponds, located on Genesis Road.

Genesis Road.

We were seeking land where we could develop a regenerative homestead following God’s plan and this property was on Genesis Rd.

On top of that, I was “feeling” it. When we had purchased our last few homes, I always had a very visceral reaction. I knew it was the right home despite the wallpaper, paneling, or orange carpeting. I could feel the potential and rightness of the home. I was beginning to get that feeling with this property online.

Joshua said if we were serious about this property, we would need to fly out to see it. We made our reservations and flew out to Tennessee the day our home went on the market back in Southern California.

Arriving in Nashville, we then set off to meet Joshua at the property. There were a few things we noticed as we got closer – cell reception was poor, and the scenery was dramatic.

We found the property, drove down the lane to the front of the home, and got out to meet Joshua in person for the first time, shaking his hand.

“Something has happened since we last talked,“ Joshua began. We find out that two days before, the owner of the property, Jack, had a heart attack and was currently in the hospital having open heart surgery.

Oh, goodness. The gravity of this fell over us. The wife was on her way from the hospital to greet us and would be here any moment.

We then face the home. As I take it in, I smell a strong floral scent surrounding me. I think “how lovely that the plants were designed to greet guests with such a lovely scent.” But this leaves my mind as another car comes down the drive.

Lynda, Jack’s wife, drives up and rushes to meet us. We ask about Jack. She is stretched thin, her husband is in the hospital, yet she comes to help with any questions we might have. I give her a big hug overcome with all she is going through.

“I don’t know what we are going to do,” Lynda shares, “if we have to run this place one more winter it will kill Jack.”

This property had been on the market for two years. And here we are. Right now.

We tour the property trying to take in as much as we can with the time we have left in the day. It is a lot to take in. It is overwhelming. But it is beautiful. Amazingly beautiful.

We leave at dusk with the decision swirling in our heads. Is this the right place? There is so much work to do. The house is much larger than what we are looking for. Such a big decision. We need to think about it. Is this God’s Plan? How do we know?


Flying home the next evening, sitting next to Mr. J, I am reflecting on the house and the decision we need to make.

And then I remember: I smelled flowers. But not just flowers.

I smelled roses.

I turn to Mr. J. and ask, “When we first got to the house, and we were looking at it, did you smell any flowers?”


“No flowers? Did you smell flowers at anytime on the property?” I pressed.


“I smelled roses.” I said looking at him seriously. There were no rose bushes where I had been standing, and I smelled roses.

He understood. At that moment, we knew we were buying the property on Genesis Road with the help of our realtor, Joshua Christian. Because I smelled roses.


Roses? Why roses?

In my Catholic faith, the scent of roses, when no roses are present, is seen as a grace or consolation. It let’s one know that God is there and that His blessing is present.

We continue this homestead journey and embrace our path knowing that when I stood in front of Fiat Farm for the first time, I smelled roses. We pray for God’s continued blessing and are thankful for His grace.

Sourdough (and a seed starting update)

It’s science, but not rocket science.

I get it. Sourdough is scary. You read recipes with specific measurement and unfamiliar terminology. What is an active starter? What is discard?

And in the world of a busy mom, it is one more thing to feed. Honestly, who has time to feed one more thing? How much do I feed it? How often? What type of flour do I use? Do I keep it on the counter and feed it daily? Then what about the discard (or excess)?

There was a time when all of that was swirling in my brain preventing me from giving it a try. Then I jumped into the world of sourdough and muddled my way through a few recipes. It was not nearly as hard as I thought.

The more I played with it, the less worried I was about my sourdough starter. And then I read about goldminers who would travel cross country to San Francisco keeping their sourdough starters alive in rough, unsanitary conditions. In the open plains, unable to regulate temperature, with questionable water sources, and probably a single bowl, they kept their starters alive.

Heck, if the goldminers could do it, so can you. Friend, sourdough is a science, but it’s not rocket science.

I think the hardest part about sourdough is finding a starter. That was the thing that kept me stalled for a while. But then I found a blogger who offered to include some of her starter with the purchase of her cookbook. Done! As a bonus, Glenda answered my questions via messenger and basically held my hand as I got started. You can find Glenda Groff’s blog Around the Family Table and all her awesome sourdough information here: You could also ask in various groups you belong to, you never know who may have a secret sourdough stash.

The second hardest part about sourdough is remembering to pull the starter out of the fridge and get it going about 12 hours before you need to work with it. Who even plans meals that far in advance? You will probably need to feed your starter a few times before you have enough for your recipe, so there is some advance planning required.

But ohhh is it worth it! Delicious and nutritious! Especially if it is made with freshly ground wheat.

I use my sourdough to make pancakes, waffles (before I my waffle iron died), rustic bread, cinnamon rolls, focaccia, and pizza dough.

And pizza is exactly why we are talking sourdough today. Sourdough pizza is for dinner tonight.

One way I make meal planning easier is to use the leftover meat from one meal to make another meal. In this case, our leftover BBQ chicken from yesterday becomes BBQ chicken pizza today.

Around the Family Table has the pizza dough recipe I used here:

Note for the crust: I use olive oil in place of the MCT. I add extra honey and omit the basil. I do not use the additional yeast.

For the pizza we use BBQ sauce in place of pizza sauce, mozzarella, BBQ chicken, onions, and sweet peppers. I have also been known to add pineapple. I don’t want to start an argument, but this family does believe that pineapple belongs on pizza. I topped today’s pizza with chopped cilantro. Yum!

I doubled the recipe so I could make two pizzas and have leftovers for lunch tomorrow. This pizza is reason enough to give sourdough a try.


I have some sourdough confessions to make:

I don’t keep my starter on the counter in a rustic crock so I can feed it daily. I do keep my starter in a sealed glass jar in the back of my fridge and ignore it until I want to use it.

I don’t always follow the directions exactly. I do follow the ingredients closely, but there are times when my ferment times or rest times are not even close to the recipe’s guidelines. I have learned that sourdough is forgiving. Remember: goldminers did it.

I don’t use exact ratios when feeding (adding flour and water) my starter. I do guestimate the amount of starter I have on hand and add equal parts bread flour and filtered water (tap water with chlorine will kill your starter).


I grind my own flour to increase the nutrient benefit. My source for wheat berries is a little more expensive, but it is non-GMO and American grown.

My focaccia bread recipe comes from Cultures for Health you can find the recipe here:

I make this bread the most: No-Knead Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread

You can read about the gold miners here:


Seed starting update:

I checked on my seeds this morning. Look at what I found…

I squealed and did a little happy dance. These were sowed just a week ago then left in my sunny window. My broccoli is off to a good start. No sign of my tomatoes, peppers, or eggplant, but that is to be expected. If I can do it, so can you.

It’s science, but not rocket science. Just do it.

Starting Seeds for Your Garden

Just do it.

When I move to a new home, I am not truly at peace until I have started my garden. We moved to this homestead almost three months ago, when the growing season was at an end, and I have been unsettled. At times the feeling has even bordered on anxiety. Until now.

I have started my seeds.

If you are a new gardener, starting plants from seed may seem overwhelming and intimidating.

“I might fail and kill the plants.” – Friend, every gardener kills plants.

“What if the seeds don’t sprout?” – Your seed packet has more seeds, try again.

“I don’t have the right supplies. It cost too much money.” – I will show you a budget friendly beginner’s approach.

“But, but, but…” – Just do it. You may succeed. You may even like it.

If you are brand new to gardening and paralyzed with fear at the thought of growing plants from seed, I encourage you to start with something easy. Go to your local store and pick up a packet of sugar snap peas or green beans. Zucchini and cucumber are also easy to start. Look around your yard for a sunny space with soil and poke them in the ground – peas in the spring or green beans, zucchini, and cucumber in the summer. The seed packet will have more information, but it is basically that easy. Each of these crops, when mature, will produce fresh food for 1-2 months. If limited in space get a bush (or patio) variety or provide a trellis for pole and vining varieties. Water regularly and you should be good. Either in failure or success, you will have learned something.

If you have been buying potted plants from your local garden center to fill your garden beds for a while and are ready to branch out, now is the time. What does your family like to eat? How much space do you have? Pick out a few seed packets a get ready for the adventure.

When should I start my seeds inside?

That depends on your growing zone. This is my favorite resource.


Type in your zip code and they tell you what to start/plant each month for your location. Provide your email and they send you planting guides at the beginning and middle of each month. Magic!

What do I need to get started?

The easiest and least expensive way to get started is with soil, seeds, and Solo cups. Use a soil designed for seed starting. Select the seeds right for your month. Poke drainage holes in the bottom of your Solo cups. Label your cup with the variety you are growing. I label the cup in two places and add a plant marker. Too often water has smudged, or sun has faded my label and I have no idea which plant it is. Label, label, label. Fill the cup with soil. Poke several seeds in. Cover with more soil and water. Cover the cups with plastic to retain heat and water. Tuck them away in a warm place and check on them daily. Once the seeds have started to sprout put them in a sunny window and watch them grow. I like to put my cups in recycled plastic containers to collect the drainage water.

In truth, there is a little more to it than that. But it is also that easy. Just do it.

For more detailed information you can listen to this podcast. Nicole Sauce, of Living Free in Tennesse, talks about this Solo cup method, but also explains more of the process.

In southern California I was able to start my plants outside. Here I am working inside because there is snow on the ground.

I put at least five seeds in each Solo cup. Usually, I will end up with most of the seeds sprouting. When they are about an inch or so tall, I will tease out all but one and transplant them into their own solo cups. This way I have more plants for my garden and if I have more than I need I give them away to neighbors and friends.

The seeds I started today:

Spring crops to go under row covers: broccoli (three different types) and cauliflower.

Summer crops to go in my hoop house: tomatoes (Black Cherry and my favorite, Amana’s Orange), peppers (four types), and eggplant (baba ghanoush, anyone?)

Confession: I am starting my seeds waaay too early for my growing zone. That is the experiment I am working on. I want fresh produce from my garden year around, so how do I make this happen? I have Mr. J working to build a hoop house and I bought some row covers so I can extend the season of my cool weather crops. And since this is my first garden here, I have a huge learning curve. But I am at peace because I have begun the process. I am doing something.

In the past, my peppers and eggplant have taken forever to get started so I wanted to get a jump on them. I always try to see how early I can start my tomatoes because you can’t beat a homegrown tomato.

This is just one set of seeds to start. I will be starting many more in the next few months.

Gardening is a grand experiment. It is trial and error. Success and failure. But in a day and time when the food in your grocery cart comes from all over the world, it is good to know that you have something right out your back door. Just do it.


Where I source seeds:

When I first started growing from seed, I purchased packets from my local grocery or hardware store. That is perfectly fine, if that is what makes it easy for you to get started.

After a season or two I began to seek out smaller companies that sell heirloom varieties. Here are two of my favorites:

Mary’s Heirloom Seeds: I have had great success with these.

St. Clare Seeds: Last year I discovered this company and I love their pro-life stance.

A Blanket of Snow

Finding God’s Grace in the Struggle

Day two of the freezing cold. The recent storm dropped six inches of snow on Fiat Farm. The perfect snow – light and fluffy. And it stayed perfect for 2 days. For my friends in warmer climates, snow stays perfect because it is cold. Very cold. Like, below freezing cold. The kind of cold that makes your fingers and toes ache.

I happily spent the first snow day bundled up inside while the guys hustled out to take care of the animals and walk our property looking for fallen trees.

But now it is day two, the sky is clear, and I need to pitch in and do my part. I offer to feed the animals so Mr. J can continue to work on the fence. Yes, we are still working on the fence. I “gird my loins.” I put on several layers of clothing, wrap a scarf around my neck, put a watch cap on my head, and don ski gloves. Ready for battle, I steel myself for the cold, open my front door, and am greeted by this:

A feast for the eyes. Fiat Farm has been transformed by a blanket of snow. I am in awe.


There are brief moments at the beginning and end of each day when the light is just right. The landscape is transformed by this veiled softness, the sun is closer to the horizon, and one can glimpse God’s subtle grace. Those moments beckon us to slow down, observe, and absorb.

I moved through my chores, but there were many times I was compelled to just stop and marvel. The Easter egg blue of the sky. The red flash of a cardinal searching for food. The hues of earthy brown carved out in the bright relief of snow.

Snow is cold. Freezing cold. Harsh. Everything is harder. Keeping warm and dry, finding food and water, moving from place to place, all become a challenge in the snow. It makes real nature’s struggle for survival.

But in that struggle, there is stark beauty. And it beckons you.

A familiar path becomes enchanted:

A previously unnoticed tree demands attention with a dramatic silhouette.

Form and texture invite marvel and imagination:

Attention is brought to the hidden life around you:

And, if you are lucky, in the midst of the struggle you get a glimpse of God’s mystery.

And it takes your breath away:

Knowing, that today would be bright, sunny, and in the 40’s I made a point to walk and marvel. To soak in God’s creation. To reflect on His plan.

His plan is good. And in the struggle, there is Grace.

Slow down, observe, and absorb. These moments of grace are fleeting. The blanket of snow melts, and the familiar path returns.

Homestead Happenings – January 2022

Our life in pictures.

The Return of Helen Reddy and Panda

After two weeks hanging out with our neighbor Travis’ herd of Angus we finally have our heifers back on the homestead. The recent rain and snow made the ground too muddy for us to retrieve them until two days ago when we had enough of a gap between wet weather to give it a go. Our neighbors across the road lent us their livestock trailer and Travis was a life saver in separating our girls from his. He even used his tractor to pull our truck out of the mud.

Fencing, Fencing, Fencing


Helen and Panda’s escapades made it clear that our fencing was sorely lacking. While they were safely contained in the neighbor’s pasture, we put all our energy and time into fencing one of our pastures. Thankfully, we had some extra help from visiting friends, extended family, and our two grown sons visiting for the holiday.

Mr. J quickly educated himself on how to install durable perimeter fencing – H-braces, 5 strands of tensioned barb wire, woven wire, and gates. Our brother-in-law suggested we rent an auger instead of digging the post holes manually. Genius! As of this post we are more than halfway done. Lessons learned here will be applied to fencing the rest of the property.


The pigs have been much easier to work with than the cows, but fencing is still a focus. We currently use hog panels and t-posts to set up temporary paddocks in my garden. The pigs happily root up the soil each day and I rotate them to a new space weekly. I will need to invest in some electric fencing for the pigs so that when they finish with my garden, we can easily move them to other areas of the farm to be worked. They are already trained to the electric wire, but I would feel better if they were surrounded by electric hog netting.

Our weather has been cold and wet. To keep the pigs warm and dry we bring them into the barn each night. I am training them to follow me from the barn to the garden in the morning and from the garden to the barn at night with voice commands and food rewards. Every time I go down to feed the pigs I call “Piiiiiig, pig, pig, pig, pig” and they squeal in anticipation. When we open their fencing to relocate them, I continue my call while shaking a container with some food. They either follow right behind or run ahead because they know where to go.  My hope is that this association with my voice and food will make it possible for me to herd them farther distances. So far so good. Plus, it makes me laugh.


I have a confession. Our Great Pyrenees is a chicken chaser. He will walk towards the birds and if they start to move away, he will give chase. The faster they move, the more excited he gets. For him it is a game, but it may not turn out well for the chickens. So, I decided to enlarge the chicken run to give the birds more space. This meant in addition to everything else, we quickly put up a run with welded wire fencing and t-posts. It was completed yesterday, and the girls were let out of their smaller enclosure. What happy chickens!

As I write this, snow is falling, and our fires are burning as we anticipate 6-10 inches of snow.




Fiat Farm

My Bag of Tricks

The tools I use to support our immune system during cold and flu season.

(I am not prescribing medical advice. Back in the day, before we could type our symptoms into the computer, we used to share this information with each other and much of our knowledge was passed down from our parents and grandparents to us. Here I am sharing what works for my family.)

It is safe to say, I have thought more about our immune system’s ability to fight viruses in the last two years than I have in my previous 50 years. I try to arm my family with the tools they need to support their immune systems when a cold or virus comes our way. I will share three of my tried-and-true protocols, one protocol I’ve had in my back pocket since March 2020, a new protocol for prevention, and how despite all these, recently pharmaceuticals were still a necessity.

I don’t take supplements daily. I do try to get sunshine, exercise and a variety of whole foods that provide my body with the nutrients it needs. But there are times I feel a cold coming on. It could be a soreness in the back of my throat, feeling fatigued or a little fuzzy, or perhaps another member of the household has a cold. That is when I pull out my bag of tricks.

My Three Tried-and-Trues


Vitamin D3 – 1,000-3,000 IU/day

Vitamin C – 500-1,000 mg 2 x daily

Quercetin – 250mg/day

Zinc – 30-40 mg/day

At the onset of symptoms, this combination is what I reach for first. If I am feeling a little “off” or another family member is sick these prove to be effective for me. In most cases I am able resolve the issue before it can develop further. You can find this protocol on the FLCCC website HERE. I now make sure I always have these on hand.

Hot Tea:

As a child, I learned to treat my colds with hot tea, lemon, and honey. These proved to relieve my symptoms, but I had no idea at the time how they aided my immune system. I have move past just the lemon and honey and have added more tools to my toolbelt. You can certainly add the tea of your choice, but my latest trend is just hot water with different immune supports added in.

The basic drink:

Fresh ginger – anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant

Lemon slices – Vitamin C

For an extra boost add:

Tumeric (1/2 tsp or to taste) – anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial

Raw Honey (to taste) – anti-bacterial and anti-fungal

Vitamin C crystals – for an extra Vitamin C boost throughout the day.

In addition to the immune support, drinking tea throughout the day will sooth the throat and keep you hydrated. Win-win.

Thieves Oil:

I have been intrigued with Thieves Oil for a while. Bloggers on the internet sing its praises for fighting off a cold or flu. I finally gave it a try when I found this DIY recipe HERE by Small Footprint Family.

Since making my own blend I have added it to our hand soap, diffused it in a pot of hot water, and mixed it with coconut oil to apply to the throat, chest and back as needed. While I would not call it miraculous, I do believe it helps my body naturally fight off viruses and bacteria.

Something I Had in My Back Pocket

Clearing the Lungs

My oldest son and his bride have been visiting for the past week. During this time he developed a low grade fever and a bit of a sore throat, but nothing debilitating. We gave him vitamins and he was still able to help outside on the farm. But the fever wasn’t going away, and slight congestion was added to it. So, I started plying him with the ginger/lemon hot drink in addition to the vitamins. A few mornings later he woke us saying he was having trouble taking a deep breath.

You do not want to hear those words these days.

I immediately got out of bed, had him lay on his stomach and Mr. J applied firm but gentle thumps to his lungs. I had learned of this technique in March 2020. It is a protocol nurses use to prevent pneumonia. Laying on one’s stomach and tapping the back loosens any mucus that has settled there.

It worked!

My son immediately felt relief and was able to breathe more freely. He started having productive coughs. The mucus was coming up and out. We continued having him lay on his stomach throughout the day, thumping on his back. By days end, his breathing was much improved.

With this further development in his illness, we added turmeric and honey to his hot water, started applying the coconut and Thieves oil to his back and pulled out a new trick.

A New Preventive Protocol

1% Povidone/Iodine Nasal Spray

Povidone-iodine as a 10% solution is readily available at your local pharmacy. To make it a 1% solution I mixed 1 Tablespoon iodine and 9 Tablespoons distilled water in a clean glass container, then poured it into a clean cosmetic spray bottle. This can be used as a nasal spray or mouthwash. Find more information HERE. Just don’t swallow.

I began hearing of this protocol at the end of last year. This spray, used twice daily, will kill off the viruses that develop in your sinuses. So, 4 squirts in each nostril morning and night, will effectively stop that virus in its tracks. This is my kind of strategy. So, before Christmas I picked up what I needed from the grocery store, just in case.

Now, with my oldest son getting worse, it was time to give it a try. He applied the spray several times a day (to stop replication of a virus) and the rest of the family used it twice a day (as a prevention).

I can say that the rest of us are still healthy and symptom free. So, in that way it was effective. However, despite everything I threw at it my son’s fever and sore throat continued to get worse.

The next day, I come back to the homestead from errands in town to find out that he looked at his tonsils in the mirror. They are white and spotty. Tonsilitis. Ugh.

It’s not a virus, it’s an infection.

So, this morning, we head into town. Thankfully the clinic was able to see him right away. He was correct. Tonsilitis.

The nurse declares that his are the worse tonsils she has ever seen.

Friends, what a mom failure.

Mind you, this is the son that, at the age of eight, had the worst ear infection the doctor had ever seen. The boy must have a high pain tolerance! It never occurred to me to check his tonsils. My kids’ colds never developed that way. Until now. And in a big way. So, while I failed today, I will add that information to my toolbox going forward. Look at tonsils when there is a sore throat.

Thankfully, my oldest son typed his symptoms into the computer and was able to identify his ailment.

Thankfully, the nurses were able to provide him with the pharmaceuticals he needs to gain relief and overcome this infection.

But I made sure to tell him that after the antibiotics have destroyed his gut biome, he needs to be sure to get yogurt to build it back up. Afterall, we have got to support our immune system.

What tools do you use during cold and flu season? What is in your bag of tricks?

Meeting Neighbors and Finding Cows

In all things God’s Grace abounds.

In my previous post I relate how our two new heifers escaped. Let’s continue the story with how they get found.

It is 1pm, Friday. The cows that arrived earlier in the week have disappeared into the dense woods of our property line. I need to leave to go pick up our oldest son and his new bride from the airport. That leaves Mr. J and 2 boys to handle the cow search. They form a search line and spend the next two hours looking for cows until eventually Mr. J and the boys lose each other. Still no cows.

Time for a new approach.


The sun will be setting soon. We decide the best plan is to reach out to our neighbors. We have been so busy working the farm that we have been unable to introduce ourselves to the farms around us. Now is the perfect time. Mr. J. drives the truck to nearby properties handing out cards with our number and asking for a phone call if someone sees our heifers. He gets much sympathy and understanding nods as he describes our plight. Evidently, we are not the first people to have cows break loose.

The sun sets. The cows are still out there on their own. We are worried. Our only consolation is that the weather is mild and there has been plenty of rain so there will be water out there for our girls.

After dark Mr. J walks out to our woods with a flashlight to have a final look. Shining the light into the trees he sees two sets of beady eyes peering back. Then the eyes close, the heads turn, and the two cows all but disappear into the night. Stinkers! But at least we know they are close.

With the arrival of our oldest son and his new wife for a holiday visit we now have more hands to add to the task.

The next morning is Saturday, and as the guys head out again to search the woods, Mr. J gets a call on his cell phone. It is a 911 dispatcher asking if we had lost two cows.

(Can I just say, I love the fact that 911 is instrumental in connecting the threads of our little drama and that the deputies are looking out for all the creatures in their county not just the people. I’m sure we also gave them a good chuckle.)

A sheriff’s deputy had seen the two cows and reached out to a nearby farmer to try to track down the owners. Fortunately, it was one of the neighbors we had given our number to the night before. The deputy worked through 911 to track us down. We identified the girls by their tag numbers and the dispatcher gave us their latest location.

The guys leap into action. As they throw on their boots, I gather water and protein bars to keep them going. We learned from yesterday that this cattle wrangling is neither quick nor easy.

Mr. J and the three boys meet the deputy and two concerned neighbors on a country road about 2 miles away from or homestead and get an update on the girls. Helen Reddy and Panda have moved off the road up the hillside into trees and brambles. Not optimal, but it could be worse.

At the top of the hill another neighbor on his ATV is keeping an eye on the cows and waiting for my guys to arrive so he can help. Dylan and his ATV prove to be lifesavers in this story.

But we have a problem. A big problem. Suppose we can get the girls; we have no way to contain them. It’s not like they will allow themselves to be herded. We don’t have a cattle trailer and our property is over two miles away by country road. We can’t think about that now. First, get the girls.

So, it’s all hands on deck with Dylan on the ATV and my four guys spread out at strategic points in the trees and brambles. Eventually, they get Helen down the hill to the country road. This is ideal. The road, fenced on both sides, creates a chute. And off that road is a gate to a well-fenced pasture holding a small herd of Angus cattle. The perfect place is placed right before us. Using our truck, the ATV, and three boys they are able to get Helen herded close to the gate. Mr. J and the boys keep Helen in place while Dylan calls the pasture’s owner, Travis, asking if we could get his gate unlocked and herd our cow in with his. He sends someone over to unlock the gate. Before long, Helen is contained.

Trying to lure Helen with a treat.

But Panda is out of sight, she zigged when Helen zagged. We got one girl secure, but the other is still out there, and we don’t know where. We think Helen will call out to her from the paddock and Panda will wander back to be close to her friend, but that will take time. Not much else can be done at the moment, so my guys head home and wait.

Back at the house, us girls are regaled with their adventure. The chasing through brambles. The running to prevent Helen’s escape. The helplessness as Panda heads off in the opposite direction. The helpfulness of Dylan and his ATV. The boys are animated in their storytelling and united in the experience.

Listening to them, I recall all the times as my boys were growing up, I planned vacations and activities with the goal of creating family memories and shared experiences. I felt I had to orchestrate moments like this for them to treasure. On this day, through no efforts of mine, a significant memory was created; an exciting day was lived. This homestead life we chose certainly makes life interesting and I am thankful that, at this moment, all my boys are along for the ride.

Around 4:30 that afternoon, I suggest to Mr. J that they hop in the truck and search for Panda one more time before it gets dark. Hopefully, she will have wandered back to Helen who is secure in the paddock. Mr. J, youngest son, and our new daughter-in-law, head out to have a final look for the day.

My three searchers wander about looking all the places Panda is not, while at the same time Dylan and his wife spy her from their farm and get her going toward the paddock with Helen. My crew falls in on the efforts. Panda heads to the gate, daughter-in-law opens it up, and Panda walks right in.

Hanging out with the big girls.

With the help of our neighbors, both cows have been found, corralled, and secured. We can breathe easy tonight.

Dylan, and his ATV, spent several hours that Saturday afternoon helping us. Time sacrificed for strangers who had lost their cows. We are humbly grateful.

The girls are tucked safely into Travis’ pasture with his cattle. When Mr. J offers to pay for their feed, Travis replies, “They don’t each much. You don’t owe me nuthin’.” When we worry that weather is preventing us from getting them in a timely manner, he replies, “They ain’t causin’ no trouble.” His hospitality is more than we could ask.

Our struggle with these two cows has brought to life in a tangible way the second of the two great commandments:

…”You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Mark 12:31 (NAB, St. Joseph’s Ed.)

At the end of this Gospel passage Jesus says that if you love God with all you heart and love your neighbor as yourself “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” (Mark 12:34) I certainly feel as though I have experienced a little bit of heaven here on earth.

In small town Tennessee, 911 calls you about your lost cows and your neighbors go out of their way to help you find them.

And amid all the struggle God’s Grace abounds.

I Don’t Hate This

On getting cows, loosing cows, and embracing your vocation.

A month ago, while walking the property with Magnus I had a talk with God. If we are going to do this thing, I said, we will need livestock. For me it is not just any livestock. I am looking for local, hearty, heritage breeds that will thrive on our pasture. This quest is not impossible, it’s just not easy. And at the time I was chatting with God I was struggling to get animals. Any animals.

Talking to God about livestock.

With a little internet research, I was able to track down a farm with heritage cattle and hogs. Located an hour away, this farm raising heritage breeds was an answer to prayer. The farmer is a woman who began her dream about 10 years ago. She let us visit her property. She answered my questions, nodded knowingly at my vision, and agreed to sell me some of her stock. She also said she had made every mistake you can make when starting her farm journey. This is a common theme when I reach out to farmers that start this journey later in life. Farmers will chuckle and say, “I have made every mistake you can think of.” I smile and think that, surely, I won’t make every mistake.

Before we received any animals, we need a secure place for them on the farm. Fencing, my friends, is essential and we are quickly learning that it is also expensive, time-consuming, and never-ending.

I left her farm with the task of making a paddock for the pigs. We would let her know when we were ready to get them. Over the next few days, I tackled the pig paddock. I made a trip to the feed store – purchased hog panels, t-posts, straw for bedding, and some hog food. With a little help from the youngest son, I was able to make a home for our large blacks. We went back to the farm the next week and got the pigs. Success!

Look at us. We are farmers.

I had such immediate success with the pigs that I just knew we could handle cows. After all, the description of their breed labels them as “docile” and their breeder says they “respect the fence.” Docile is a term bandied about to make breeds appealing to the new homesteader. Every animal that doesn’t charge you and eat you alive is “docile.” Electric fencing is used in pasture and livestock management. A zap or two from a hot electric wire convinces animals to stay in their paddock. A 700-pound cow that “respects the fence” will stay put. Or so they say.

We got electric netting and I convinced Mr. J that we were ready to take on cows. After all, you can only learn so much from watching videos on the internet. You must get animals so you can figure it all out. If we waited until everything was perfect, we would never get animals.

I called the farmer and told her we were ready for the cows. We had water, pasture, extra hay, and fencing. We were good to go.

A few days later the girls arrived. Two lovely year-old heifers. They were unloaded from the trailer to their fenced paddock with ease. We were now true homesteaders. We had actual cattle on our land. And they respected the fence – for two days.

Regenerative farming has a livestock grazing technique called “mob and mow.” It mimics the movement of wild herd animals across native savannahs. The herd huddles close together and grazes aggressively on the available grasses. Each day the herd seeks new land as they instinctively move to avoid predators and find fresh pasture. This mob and mow method regenerates the land and keeps the animals healthy. It is a method popularized by Joel Salatin and Greg Judy – icons in regenerative practices. We have been watching their videos. These guys make it look easy. This is our plan.

Then you get cows of your own. With minds of their own.

And chaos ensues.

After two days in the same paddock, we decided it was time to move the cows. Basically, we open the fencing to a new paddock, and they walk into it on their own because they are curious and want new grass. Our middle son, home for a few weeks, provides an extra set of hands. Dad and son set out to move the electric netted fence and set up a new paddock. But we didn’t have enough netting to both contain the cows in their current paddock and mark off a new one. To solve this, the guys string up some electric wire with plastic poles to keep the girls contained. After all, they are trained to respect the fence. Half of the netting is removed, and a thin wire is all that stands between the girls and open space. This works in the videos. Surely it will work for us.

Helen Reddy and Panda looking docile before the jail break.

Helen Reddy, the bolder of the two, tests the wire with her chest. Zap. She brushes it again. Zap. She brushes it a third time and walks right over it. The hot wire is now laying on the grass. Helen’s partner in crime, Panda, walks right over it to follow her buddy.

They do not respect the fence.

It is 9am. The cows are loose. Any plan for the day has been thrown out the window.  For the next four hours four grown adults try to wrangle two “docile” cows. Unsuccessfully.

We run across pastures. We sprint up hills. We make loud noises and wave our arms to look big. Everything we can to get them moving in the direction we want them to go.

No luck.

A few hours in, as I am trudging once again across a pasture to try to intercept the girls, I think how difficult this is. I think of the potential significant financial loss, our responsibility to the girls, and how we have absolutely no control over the situation. And then I think:

I don’t hate this.

This thing we are doing is hard. It requires patience, endurance, communication, observation, sacrifice, humility, and a deep and profound letting go of self. (I’m not just talking about looking for cows.)

But I don’t hate it. I embrace it. This life we have chosen is real and substantial. It is all-encompassing and like motherhood it is quickly becoming a vocation.

The moment of reflection is gone as we try once again to herd the cows. Our middle son takes the lead coordinating our efforts. We crash through trees, we run uphill, we crouch down to hide then get big to guide. Together we get some momentum, the girls are moving, just get them over this hill…NOOOOO! They turn around and trot right past us, down the hill, and out of sight. We lose them. Helen Reddy and Panda duck under the barbed wire of our property line and head into the thick woods behind us. They stop moving. We can’t hear them. We can’t see them. And four adults stomping through the woods for an hour can’t find them.

Heck, we couldn’t even find each other.

I haul myself back to the house to get water and food for the gang. It is past noon. We need to stop, eat something, and reassess. I return to the furthest pasture, near the trees the girls escaped into. I sit down and wait. Mr. J sees me and walks over. Youngest son pops out of the woods and heads our way. I hand out water and protein bars while we wait for the middle son to find us. We are sitting on a slope facing our furthest pond and the trees that hide our cows. The sun is shining, the weather is perfect, and the scene is beyond picturesque. Middle son comes out of the trees, and we watch complacently while he makes his way towards us. I hand him water and food as he sits down. Here we are. Together. Working through something big. Something real. Something hard. Together.

I’d like to think we all sat there quietly for a few moments just pondering the awesomeness of it all. But the boys were probably just too tired to talk.

However, I am pondering, and marveling and I think: real farmers don’t just have animals. Real farmers struggle. They drop everything to save their livestock. They work together.

Real farmers make mistakes. Every mistake.

And in the failure and struggle and challenge there is a deep, profound satisfaction.

++++++Don’t worry about Helen and Panda. They had their adventure and are currently safe. I will let you know how that goes in my next post.

++++++As I am finishing this story my youngest son asks what I am writing about and then comments that this life really gives meaning to the parable of the lost sheep. This livestock hunting is no easy task.

…and, upon his arrival home, he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them, “Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.”

I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.

Luke 15:6-7 (NAB, St Joseph’s Ed.)

Lentil Soup – delicious and nutritious

and a lesson on Methylation

Note: I am obviously not a doctor, and I am not giving medical advice here. However, over the years I have come to learn more about optimal health through nutrition. This post is just one small peak at optimizing your health with delicious food.

We recently sought the advice of a functional medicine practitioner to help resolve my 18-year old’s inability to fall asleep. Now, the boy may just be a night owl, and I (an early riser) may have to accept that; but as we prepare to launch him into adulthood, I thought it important to see if there were any underlying causes preventing him from sleeping.

To get to the bottom of things the practitioner did a blood draw to check vitamin levels and my son brought home a urine test to check his neurotransmitters. We will have results in a few weeks. I am fascinated to learn more about this.

Functional medicine is a biology-based approach that seeks to find the root cause of disease rather than only treat the symptoms. Supplementation largely replaces pharmaceuticals. Nutrition is used to optimize the bodies processes.

As the nurse practitioner asked questions and explained how your gut health effects all aspects of your health, she kept talking about an important process our bodies perform to help with food absorption.


I had heard of methylation before, but didn’t quite understand it’s importance until now.

Methylation is a biochemical process that helps your cardiovascular, neurological, reproductive, and detoxification systems do their jobs. If methylation is not taking place, it can cause a whole host of health problems.

Basically, methylation helps All. The. Things.

For a deeper, scientific explanation check out this article: What is Methylation and Why Should You Care About it | Thorne

The article states that 60% of people have a genetic mutation that makes it difficult for them to perform this process (methylation) efficiently. Couple that with the poor nutrition rampant in the standard American diet (notice how the acronym is S.A.D.) and it is no wonder so many of us have underlying health issues.

Any serious health concerns should be brought to the attention of your primary care physician, but I believe we can do a lot for ourselves by just eating nutritious and delicious food.

Here is an article that lists foods that support Methylation. Methylation Foods for Optimal Balance – WholisticMatters I find it interesting that many of these foods (spinach, kale, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and cabbage) are in season at the same time we often find ourselves fighting off colds and viruses. These veggies grow naturally when we need them most. God had a plan.

Many of these methylating foods can be found in my go to Lentil soup recipe.

This Lentil Soup recipe at Allrecipes is packed full of the vegetable that assist your body with methylation. This basic soup is easy to throw together and budget friendly. It is a cinch to double for large families or leftovers. I encourage you to give it a try.

Look at the variety of vegetables I was able to add to this pot of soup.

I try to look for ways to add extra vegetables to my recipes. For this meal I replaced the spinach with kale and added cabbage and mushrooms – items I pulled from my fridge. All of these additional veggies, along with the lentils aid in methylation.

I make this soup frequently in the cooler months, so I make sure I always have extra lentils and cans of crushed tomatoes in my pantry. It is also one of the recipes I use when providing a meal to families welcoming new babies or our parish priests.

Here are some other ways to adapt the original recipe:

-Use broth instead of water. I used my homemade chicken broth to add even more nutritional punch.

-Add some heat. If you like spicy, a pinch of crushed red pepper would give this soup a little zip.

-Make it heartier. I find this soup filling on its own but adding sausage or bacon would make it heartier.

-Make it stretch. You can easily add a potato or two to make this stretch a little further.

-Sneak in more veggies. Add shredded zucchini, no one will know, and I won’t tell.

Here is a trick that will blow your mind. Stick your mushrooms outside in the sun or in a sunny window before cooking with them. Studies show mushrooms will absorb Vitamin D from the sun and become even more nutritious.

Who knew?

I encourage you to look at your meals in a new way. Make them delicious and nutritious.