Making Lemonade Out of Lemons

At eleven and twelve years old our boys can swing to both sides of the emotional spectrum in a heart beat.

After spending Friday afternoon playing with their friend (Dylan) we had some chores for them to do on Saturday.

“Woe is me”, was the unified outcry. “You’re always taking our fun away from us,” cried both boys.

“It’s our job to prepare you for the real world”, Michael and I reply.

The chore was to pick up all the clippings from fruit tree pruning that we had left there over the week.

“It’s your mess shouldn’t you have to pick it up?” said a certain twelve year old.

“Well, if you want to look at it that way then I guess the fruit trees are mommy and daddy’s and we will eat all the fruit,” I said with a smile.

Grudgingly, they went off to do their chore.

We told them to use the riding lawn mower and put the clippings in the grass catcher. They would be able to get it done pretty quickly that way.

Not too long into it here is what I see,

Nicholas the chariot driver.

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Joshua surfing the waves of Big Sur.

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If you look closely at the back of the lawn mower, you can see some water shoots from the fruit tree pruning. Eventually they got it all done.

For all you mom’s of prepubescent boys I’m sure you know that the swing from happy to upset happens MANY time  each day.

Life. More than just fruit trees are being pruned around here.

Take care,
Karen

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Spring Flowers…..in February?

When we first looked at this house it was in April and there were bulbs in bloom EVERYWHERE.

Well, its February and flowers are popping up and it is quite enjoyable.

I thought I would share the beauty with some pictures.

Daffodils

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Narcissus

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No idea

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Crocus

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Heather?

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There are hundreds of daffodils that haven’t opened yet.

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It seems early, but I sure to appreciate the gift.

Enjoy the day,
Karen

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What’s Happening on the Farm

The weather being so nice has allowed us to do more outdoor things.

We have been putting half the chickens in the garden every day. A friend gave us this chicken tractor and it is wonderful. Michael will make another at some point.

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The chickens have been laying a lot of eggs. 132 eggs so far this month.

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Joshua has been able to let his bunnies out as well.

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Tuesday, the mama deer and her two babies were back in the lower acreage. They sure have grown a lot!

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Nicholas was anxious to mow that grass. Can’t do it when the mower has a flat tire. Emergency repairs are a specialty of Michael.

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We pruned our first two apples trees. The boys and I bought Michael a safe ladder to use. Better to be safe than in the hospital.

Here is the Early Transparent tree before we got to it…

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Here is Michael doing some pruning.

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And here is it when we were done.

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This is a Gravenstein Apple tree.

Before pruning (what a mess)

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After our pruning….less mess.

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Last but not least my wonderful hubby bought me a holder for my pruners. The word FELCO and the number 919 were the only things on the holder.

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He used his solder iron to make it pretty for me. He’s so sweet.

So, I’m mentally preparing for not a lot of fruit this year and secretly hoping for lots of fruit. It will take a few years to get these trees in shape and even longer if we choose to graft different fruit into the existing root stock.

Thanx for following on this mid-life crisis journey of ours.

Karen

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Goat Walk

We thought the does would enjoy getting out and experiencing a little freedom. We didn’t tell them that between the creeks that surround the lower acreage and the fencing Michael has installed in the upper pasture it wasn’t complete freedom.

Look at the nice gate Michael put in the upper pasture.

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They really didn’t understand that they were free to leave the barn. Once they figured it out there was no turning back. The older girls were more adventurous than the babies.

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Wow, look at all that grass.

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Ahhh, fresh grass.

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Chomp, chomp, chomp.

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I think we can call Michael the Pied Piper of goats.

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They boys didn’t think it was fair for the girls to be outside of their pen. I think we will take them on their own walk next time.

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The babies stayed close together.

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Awww. Love is in the air.

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Yummy grass….

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Hey! Look at that.

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Even the chicks enjoyed watching the goats.

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Michael had a little grain in a container. He shook it to get them to follow him back to the barn. Apparently Halle wasn’t willing to wait.

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It was fun and they goats really enjoyed it. We will definitely do this again.

Have a great day,
Karen

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Luke the Loveable

Yesterday Luke, my brother-in-law’s Rottweiler of over 14 years, died.

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Luke joined the family in the summer of 2000. Brian (brother-in-law), Michael and Danny (Father-in-law) worked together and Luke would come to work with Brian. Our beagle, Riley, had been going to work with Michael for more than six months. One day the cutest little puppy showed up. Not one to share attention, Riley had to get used to this puppy who could literally walk under him.

It didn’t take long for Luke to OUTGROW Riley. I don’t think Riley ever got over that. After all, he was the elder dog. Luke towered over Riley but never lorded over him. Luke was the ultimate nice guy. They quickly became life long friends.

Here is a picture of Luke during Thanksgiving in 2003.

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My mother-in-law’s side of the family are ranchers that live in the Tygh Valley which is in Central Oregon. Our families loved to camp in the area. We have so many good memories of all of us and the two dogs exploring the land.

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Riley was usually the dog getting into trouble. That nose would take him anywhere. If Luke wasn’t able to get anyone to play ball  he was often side by side with Riley. As a matter of fact Riley owes Luke his life. On one particular camping trip in spring Riley must have followed his nose into a coyote den. Short and squatty, he couldn’t run as fast as those coyotes. They got a hold of his hind end, both sides, and tore him up. He shouldn’t have survived. Best we can figure is Luke heard the ruckus and ran to Riley’s aid.

Camping together was something we always looked forward to. Luke and Riley couldn’t get enough of the great outdoors. Exploring together. Best friends until the end, which for Riley was July 2013. Luke looked for his friend for a while before accepting that he was gone.

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This was Christmas Eve 2013. Luke’s body was failing but his spirit was as young as ever. Karren (mother-in-law) often put some sort of Christmas decoration on Luke. He was happy to do whatever Karren wanted.

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This was the last time we saw Luke. It was at Nicholas’ last birthday party in December.

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The best friends are together again. Luke walking with a tennis ball in his mouth next to Riley who is following his nose to the closest source of food.

We will miss you Luke.

Brian, I am so sorry for your loss. Jesus is the great comforter. Turn to Him.

Love,
Karen

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NWODGA 2015 Goat Conference

Having finished our three Sundays of being out of the house early and heading up to Portland for fruit tree pruning classes, we got up even earlier on Saturday and headed up to Portland for the annual goat conference at Clackamas High School.

The NW Oregon Dairy Goat Association hosts a large conference every year and it is well attended by goat owners from Washington and Oregon.

There are four sessions throughout the day. The first begins at 8:30 (after check in) and each session is an hour and fifteen minutes. You choose from 55 different session. It is hard to choose, especially for beginners, which four sessions you want to attend. Michael and I went to different ones so we were able to learn about eight different topics.

NWODGA plans the conference and always manages to get a handful of veterinarians to come and give presentations. They also plan sessions for the youth. Eighteen sessions are dedicated to the youth mostly focusing on 4-H and showing their goats. There was, however, an assortment of youth sessions that focused on art and things you can make from goat milk. Nicholas didn’t want to attend any of those but instead went with either Michael or I to our sessions. Joshua wanted to do the art sessions. He did two that were about felting with wool. He made some very cute things.

Here is his felted pig.                                              Here are his two felted flags.DSC_0995      DSC_0996

 

These are the wet felting  balls and ropes he made.

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I went to the following sessions:

30-Minute Mozzarella
Reproductive Cycle Management
Photographing Your Show Goat
Kidding- What is Normal and What is Not

The finished mozzarella.                                       Nicholas in the mozzarella class. He said it                                                                                         was one of his favorite classes.

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Michael attended the following sessions:

Goats-n-Herbs: Alternative Wellness for your Working Pets
Ten Tips for Keeping Your Goat Healthy
Herd Health- Management and Vaccinations
Efficient Farm Layout

My favorite class was the kidding class. Dr. Daniel Drake was the teacher and he was wonderful. In Oregon (and probably most areas) it is unusual to find a vet that really knows goats. Dr. Drake is a graduate of  UC Davis which actually has a Dairy Goat Research Facility and students work/learn at the facility weekly. Jan Carlson, who taught the Reproductive class I attended is the facilities supervisor. Dr. Drake lives in Southern California and has his own dairy so he had a lot of experience and had all the answers we needed. For the most part goats give birth easily and there isn’t any need for you to get involved. But, there are some pretty scary situations you can find yourself in and he went over each in vivid detail. My big take home from this session was, if you must choose between saving the kid(s) or the doe, you save the doe.

The conference also gives vendors a chance to sell their products. There were big names like Wilco there but mostly it was local people who have created a product to help goat owners.

Some of the vendors:

Caprikoda Croft is where Brown Sugar came from. They developed a really good, yet reasonably priced, milking machine called “Simple Pulse”.

Fir Meadows, which is the farm of Kat Drovdahl MH (Goats-n-Herbs session), was also there selling their wonderful natural products for both humans and goats. She is a Master of Herbology and their farm is just south of us in Oregon. We re-stocked some things while we were there……no shipping cost, YEAH.

Another vendor I took note of was the Organic Fodder Farm out of Sandy Oregon. I have been interested in fodder for animals for a couple of years and it was nice to see someone locally develop a reasonably priced system to purchase.

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Fodder (grass) is a very healthy food for goats (and other animals) and once you get past the initial cost of the system it is less expensive than other feed. You start with whole seed (wheat, barley,peas, etc) and keep it in a moist environment. By the sixth day you have the optimum nutrition in the fodder to feed to your goats. The system involves automatic watering.

There were other vendors all selling products they make from their goats (soap, lotion, cashmere wool, etc.) As well as things that goat owners might need (clippers, scales, stainless steel pails, etc). And a couple of people who make really cute things and sell them there. My favorite were the signs (made from re purposed pallet wood) with cute sayings on them.

All in all, it was a thirteen hour day well spent. We all enjoyed what we attended, seeing people we knew, and meeting new people.

Michael is taking this next week off of work. He had been gone for the previous two work weeks so it will be nice having him home and not doing his paying job.

Enjoy your week,
Karen

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Weighing the Goats

When Bryn came to visit on Monday she brought her animal scales. We need to weigh the goats to determine the amount of pour-on insecticide to give them. They have…..lice…..shhhh.

Actually it is quite normal this time of year. Talking with other goat people in the area the general thought is that it will be a bad year for lice as we didn’t have any lengthy freezing weather. I think it will be a bad year in general for bugs. It has been wet but warmer and that sort of weather isn’t going to kill off bugs.

So, we needed to weigh the goats.

Oreo (30 lbs)  and Mouse (31 lbs.)were the first ones up and they didn’t give us any problems.

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Ramblin Rose (33 lbs)was a little trouble at first but she managed in the end. Brown Sugar (56 lbs.) was a little distracted by the boys in the stall

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I think Halle (67 lbs) (our resident foodie) was just looking for something to eat.

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So all the girls behaved nicely.

Ken, from MisFit Farms was also visiting. We had to get his help getting the bucks on the scale.

Surfer Joe weighed in at 100 lbs.                       Woody…..105 lbs.

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And last but not least was slim guy Calvin weighing in at a perfect weight of 80 lbs.

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The pour-on insecticide is similar to “Frontline” for dogs. You put the dosage along their back bone starting at the neck and into the upper back. We are going to use CyLence.  In June, before we take them for their Linear Appraisal, we will shave everyone. The lice will go bye bye with the hair and all will be good.

Just another way we need to take care of our animals. Thankfully lice are species specific and will not be a problem to humans.

Enjoy the day,
Karen

 

 

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A Visit to Diji Farm

Halle Berry was born at Diji Farm. It is a wonderful farm just about 20 minutes from us. Carol is the owner/breeder/Nigerian Dwarf goat aficionado.

We arrived smack in the middle of kidding. They have quite a large barn and have kidding stalls for the goats. Probably seven stalls with either a doe and her new babies or a doe that will be kidding soon.

Here is one stall with two does and their babies.

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This is one of Halle Berry’s daughters and I believe this was her first freshening.

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Babies, lots of babies.

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These babies were born last night and are only one pound each. They are in the house on a heating pad and are being bottle fed. Those are socks they are wearing to keep warm. They are getting stronger and look like they will make it.

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This is the mamma and siblings of the two little ones above.

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Here is a doe that is due any day. She is convinced that the best hay is in the middle.

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I wanted to visit Diji Farm not only to meet Carol but to ask her about Halle. Sure enough she said that you really won’t know that Halle is pregnant until she lies down and a kid pops out. Historically she has one kid and it is always a girl. Oh, and apparently she is very loud when kidding. Screams in anticipation of a contraction. Screams during contractions. Oh well, we all handle pain differently.

Here is Prenup. My friend Bryn brought him back to Diji Farm. She is downsizing her herd. He also originated from Diji. Handsome guy.

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He fit right in with Carol’s 13 other bucks.

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Wonderful lady, wonderful farm, and wonderful goats.

Enjoy the day,
Karen

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Pear and Apple Tree Pruning

What a busy month February has been and will be until the end.

I intended on posting what I learned in each of our three pruning classes. I’ve changed my mind and this post will include what I have learned in the last two classes.

Both the pear tree and apple tree pruning classes had all of us pruning trees the whole time. That is great for me because I learn much better by doing something rather than reading about it or being told how to do it.

The arboretum has both central leader and open-vase style pear and apple trees.

Here is a central leader pear tree                        This tree is the open-vase style

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A central leader tree has one branch that continues in line with the trunk and then branches growing off. Those branches are trained into lateral (horizontal) branches. With a central leader tree you would cut back that central branch 1/2 to 2/3 its height each year. We need to be able to safely reach the fruit.

With an open-vase style tree you need to keep the inside of the “vase” clear annually. This allows the most sunlight to all the fruit producing wood. You will also still prune for height.

One of the types of apples trees are called “tip bearing”, which produce fruit at the tip of slender shoots that grew last year. We have Granny Smith trees which are of this tip bearing type. For us the problem is that our trees need so much pruning that we will be cutting off the wood that has the potential to bear the fruit. You can’t shorten a branch without cutting off the tip.

What we will need to do is follow this general rule of thumb. Pay attention to the young shoots that grew off of last years wood. If that shoot is 9 inches or less we will leave it alone to bear fruit in the summer of 2015. If the shoot is longer than 9 inches we will head it back (losing the fruit potential for that year) to four or five buds. These buds will become shoots that will have tips and have the potential to bear fruit in the summer of 2016.

We will lose some fruit production in the short term but by heading the shoots/branches we can encourage other shoots to grow out the sides giving us more fruit potential in the future.

Hands on learning is so great. Not only does it imprint on my brain better but I became more comfortable with the concept. It became less painful to snip off fruit buds. Apples and pears are both “pome” fruits which mean that each fruit bud has the potential to produce five pieces of fruit.  Realizing that a tree can only handle so much fruit it becomes clear that if you don’t snip off some of the buds then the others won’t produce as well. One of the ways to determine what to cut is to pull on the branch. This mimics the effect of a heavy fruit load. Based on how strong that branch seems you determine your cuts. On a thinner branch you may decide to make a headiug cut so as to shorten the branch. If the branch is nice and strong you will probably just snip off some of the buds where there are too many together.

Here are some nice diagrams that shows the difference between a heading cut and  a thinning cut.

Heading and Thinning cuts

Heading cut:

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A heading cut is one that cuts the branch off in the middle (usually new growth) leaving several buds left to grow. This cut will encourage  lower buds to sprout and will create new vegetative growth.

Thinning cut:

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A thinning cut cuts the branch off where it leaves the larger branch leaving no buds to grow. This cut doesn’t encourage vegetative growth. The energy for those branches is re-directed into remaining branches, making them grow more vigorously. (It is hard to see in the picture but the two branches that were cut off have a vertical line showing where the cut would be made.)

To review what I’ve learned:

Objective: Maximize fruit production while minimizing the growth of unproductive wood.
*Planning starts at the beginning: which cultivar to grow, root stock choice, scion choice, soil and spacing are all important. Since our fruit trees are already established we can’t change a lot.

*Thinning: this will help you have consistent annual production

*Pruning: In my mind this is the most difficult. We need to balance two things; cutting away things that inhibit sunlight reaching the fruiting wood and cutting off fruiting wood to encourage fruit growth. Pruning correctly will give a good balance of new growth the coming year as well as fruit production. Too much of one, and not any of another and either winter or summer pruning might need to be modified.

*Prune: dead, diseased or damaged wood. Also, anything that is crowded or crossing another branch.

*Always know why you are making a cut. Am I trying to encourage growth or eliminate something that is getting in the way of fruit production.

I am so grateful to have had this opportunity to learn about taking care of our fruit trees. The Home Orchard Society has other leaning events throughout the year. They also sell mason bees. We bought some and will be making homes for them so that within the next month we can add them to our orchard.

I hope you learned a little from my overview. Now comes the task of pruning all those trees.

Have a great day,
Karen

 

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A Very Large Pond

The flooding of the lower acreage is passé. We expect it when we have many days of rain. We have had MANY days of CONSTANT rain.

Here is what the field looked like on Saturday. Notice that field fence by the canoe? That is the fencing Michael and I replaced in December. It sits on top of a type of dyke. There isn’t any land to distinguish where our year round pond sits.

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Take note of where the canoe is. It plays a part in my story.

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This flooding is more expansive than previous times that we have experienced. The grassy knoll isn’t completely covered but more so than in the past.

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Is there something more interesting to this story? Yes. It involves the boys and the canoe. Joshua wanted to get to the canoe and decided that a plastic tote would work as a make shift flotation device. It capsized. Into the water he went.

All was fine. He eventually got to the canoe and the boys, including their friend Dylan, went paddling around the Great Lake of Salt Creek Farm.

I had seen the boys paddling so I knew where they were. I was on the computer reading a bunch of material that I needed to have read before fruit tree pruning class on Sunday. Suddenly I hear screaming as well as Michael yelling. Freaking out, I ran to the back deck and see Nicholas in the water and the canoe a significant distance from him. Michael twice asked Nicholas if he was OK. No answer so I (panicking) yell, “If he can’t respond he is in trouble.” Then I tear off through the house and out to the shore closest to Nicholas. Michael is already, fully dressed, swimming out to him.

When I reached the shore I see that Dylan is in the canoe and Joshua is in the water hanging on to the canoe and trying to steer it towards Nicholas. Nicholas, thankfully, had flipped over onto his back and was trying to rest a bit. His pants, long sleeve shirt and thick sweat shirt had made it harder to swim than he was used to.

They made it to shore safely. Floating on his back, Nicholas was able to kick to the shore with Michael next to him in case he needed assistance.

My boys were safe. Now the questions began. Apparently there was a wager for $10 that my boys could swim to the shore from the halfway point between the grassy knoll and the opposite shore. There has been A LOT of discussion about this whole situation.

God was keeping my guys safe.

And that is a little bit of our life with boys here on the farm.

Stay dry,

Karen

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