Life in the Country Blog
It is with a very heavy hard that I write this blog tonight. Our dear friend, Bob Breed passed away last week. He was our neighbor, a friend, a farmer, and our daughters' bus driver throughout all their years of elementary school. In fact, he drove a school bus for the Vestal School District for 56 years! Yes, you read that correctly, 56 years as a bus driver!
I did not create this activity but thought it was so wonderful I wanted to share it with all the parents out there! It is from the website, Momastery. I think the Key Jar would be a wonderful activity to start with the new year approaching!
So today is Christmas Day! We arose at 7am to see what Santa Claus brought us. As we descended down the stairs we noticed the stockings that hung on the banister were full of treats for the animals at Mountain Breeze Acres. Apples for the horses, special grain for the sheep and chickens, toys and treats for the cats and dog. Macey (our dog) was going crazy over her stocking. She obviously smelled something delicious. We then headed into the sitting room by the fireplace where we found our stockings hanging on the mantel full of surprises. As with the Kasson family household tradition, we all dump out the items from our stockings onto the floor for a "show and tell". Julia was happy to get lip balm, Sarah liked the candle and gum, Alicia was glad to get bug spray and sunscreen (for her trip to the Dominican Republic to help build a church), while Deb and Cliff enjoyed the little wool Christmas ornaments that were made from Rosie's wool (sheep on our hobby farm). We then turned our attention to the living room to find the floor around the Christmas tree littered with gifts. The girls sat on the floor opening gifts while Deb and I sat on the sofa watching the expressions on their faces and taking pictures and video.
As with most families the rest of the day was spent talking to family on the phone, texting others with Merry Christmas wishes and spending time with all of the new gifts (batteries, reading directions, trying on clothes) and eating holiday treats.
I spent some time updating the Embrace Country Life website while Debbie prepared a delicious spiral ham lunch/dinner with spaetzle, yams, carrots and salad. Yum yum!
Of course we can't forget about the animals in the barn. We made our way outside leaving our Carhartt coats on the hooks in the mudroom. We only needed to wear long sleeve shirts (high 60's today!!). After feeding all of the animals and gathering a baker dozen of eggs we finished taking the firewood (from the choke cherry tree that I cut down a couple of weeks ago) to the wood shed. What a beautiful day to be outside.
I am truly blessed to have such a wonderful family to share my lifetime dream of living on a hobby farm. My children embrace all aspects of country living...this brings joy to my heart.
At Christmas Eve Mass I said special prayers of thanks and dedicated prayers to family members and especially those who are not with us anymore including my parents and both sets of grandparents whose country lifestyles influenced me greatly.
What a great Christmas day! While outside, I always take some time look around and appreciate the wonderful world that we live in.
I am thankful for Jesus and all the blessings God brings to us. Merry Christmas!
This site was created almost five years ago with the intention of promoting local farms and connecting those who want healthy foods to farms. Since inception, it has done just that. Cliff and I love to hear from farmers who have ordered more cows this year because their beef business has increased. I love recommending the site to people who are interested in eating healthier and knowing where their food comes from.
My cat, Crystal was acting strange...like very strange. She was hiding in my closet. I just knew something was up. She wasn't acting herself like the playful cat she was so I went to Alicia, aka house vet and I told her I thought something was wrong. Alicia checked her for ticks and thought that Crystal would be OK. Then, my mom came into my room and asked me what was wrong. Alicia told her that everything was fine but I told her that Crystal wasn't acting herself. My mom agreed. She thought she was meowing weird. We brought her to the scrapbooking room with a pillow so she could sleep in peace without Macey bothering her. We gave her cat food and water. She was eating and drinking fine and even used the litter box. My mom noticed a lump on her back but I told her it was normal. Come to find out, it wasn't normal at all!
Cliff's mother, Laura Mae Clough was born and grew up on a dairy farm in Montrose, PA. Every year, John Clough (Laura Mae's youngest brother) has a picnic on Memorial Day weekend. John never left the farm. His wife, RoseAnn joined him on the farm 25 years ago. John's brother Howard lives on the adjacent property. John, Donald (now deceased), and Howard continued tending the farm after their parents' deaths. It has been known as The Clough Brothers Dairy Farm for years. Although it was a dairy farm originally, now John and Howard raise Angus beef cows for beef and Holstein heifers that they sell before they freshen. They also have chickens and sell their eggs.
Two weeks ago my dad and sister, Alicia brought home 15 chicks. They were cute! Macey, our new puppy was trying to be their mother. She was always looking into the tote to make sure they were all there. She would put her paws on their tote and all the chicks ran to the other side. I think she just wanted to play with them but they didn't know that. We like to take them out and put them in the Barbie horse stable to play with them.
I've been wanting a dog for over a year after our previous dog, Scooby died at age 13. This Christmas, my family finally gave in to getting me a puppy if it was hypoallergenic since my mom is allergic and my dad didn't want it to shed.
Last night, I created a 2015 memory jar with my cousin, Melinda. We started our project by cutting out a piece of felt for the lid. Next, we cut a slit in the center of the felt. We then wrote out 2015 on a piece of paper and taped it to the mason jar. I added a piece of sparkly ribbon to the top of my jar for some extra detail.
Summer is finally here! I thought it would never come! We had a very cold winter in the Southern Tier. I never knew what a "Polar Vortex" was until this winter. If you ask most people about the winter of 2014, they would tell you it was the worst one in years! Ask Cliff and he will tell you it was the best winter in years! There was a lot of snow for sledding, skiing, and snowmobiling. Every night the girls would go sledding or snowmobiling after barn chores. They had a ball.
Every night for the past week, I have ridden my horse Sassy around the perimeter of our property. With the extremely cold temperatures, due to the Polar Vortex, I have to make sure that Sassy doesn't sweat or catches a cold. With Sassy's winter coat and my Carhartt coat, snow pants, boots, gloves, face mask, and hat, we are prepared for the snow. I like riding bareback better than riding with a saddle so I only put her bridle on. We start out by walking to some trees by our house and cantering around them like barrels. After, we walk to our pond in the center of our property. My favorite part is when we gallop up to the barn at full speed. Sassy loves galloping and needs little encouragement from me to gallop.
Every winter, we feed the outside birds. Before Christmas, we went to Agway with our three friends, the Pompeiis. We were trying to look for the perfect bird feeder and we found it! It can fit two suets on the ends and birdseed in the middle. The birdfeeder looks like a house. When we bought the feeder, we got a free bag of birdseed!
We brought it back from the store, put two suets and birdseed in and hung in on the first hook on our back deck. Then, we went inside. About a half hour later, the birds started eating everything on it! We saw blue jays, nuthatches, and a mom and dad cardinal.
Once a week, after barn chores, we go to the back deck and fill the birdfeeders. First, my dad and I put the four suets in the feeders (we have 2 other suet feeders). Next, we take down the other two bird feeders and fill them with birdseed. We have a red funnel that we use to pour the seed into the feeder. Then, we hang them back up and wait for the birds to come visit.
New Year’s Eve Tradition
Research shows that creating/keeping family traditions helps keep your family close. (http://www.genealogy.com/9_famtrd.html)
This year, one of my resolutions is to write more blogs. Today’s blog will let you in on one of our New Year’s Eve family traditions.
We started the tradition of the “Memory Box” in 2004. All of my four siblings and their families were together on New Year’s Eve. I purchased a wood trunk (photo below) for each family. I also printed photos of every family (cousins, grandparents, etc.) The children went through the photos and chose ones that they wanted to include on their box. Using fancy scissors, they cut out the photos. Next, we placed the photos around the box and then used Modge Podge (found in craft stores) to glue the photos down. The Modge Podge can be brushed over the photos to ensure they will seal down the photos. The children also wrote their names and the date on pieces of paper and sealed them to the box as well.
When the box was drying, each child was given a paper titled, 2003 Year in Review. On the paper, she/he answered 10+ questions related to the past year. Some questions included: favorite book, TV show, movie, sport, school subject, etc. The paper also included goals for the future: Something they want to accomplish in the New Year, a resolution, and one way to help others. I’ve included the link to the form we used. Feel free to adapt it to your family’s needs.
We have continued this tradition every year. The children love opening their Family Box and looking through their papers reminiscing about their favorites and seeing if they accomplished their goals. This box truly has become our “Treasure Box.” We hope it will become one of your family’s treasures!
Yesterday my friend, Rose got a new horse. Rose had sold her old horse, Jaine because she was way too much to handle. After a couple months of searching for the right horse, Rose found just the right one…Tara. Tara is around a 15 hand thoroughbred off-track horse. She’s 8 yrs old and used to run in races. We think that the reason she didn’t make it in the big races is because she had small legs, so she’s probably slower than the other race horses.
On the day that Rose got Tara, she first came up to our house with Preston, who used his truck to hook up our trailer to get the horse with. When they left, my sister, Alicia and I got up and ate breakfast. Once they came back we were over at their barn waiting for Tara’s arrival. After Tara met their other horse, Violet, Rose decided to ride her new horse. Alicia and I watched Rose and her sister, Frankie ride Tara and Violet for a while then we decided to get our horses, Sassy and Flash to ride with them. During the ride Flash got to meet Tara. He didn’t care at all, they nudged noses then walked away. We were outside for a total of 6 hours! Tara is doing amazing and so is Violet with her new friend! J
If you read the "About Us" section of Embrace Country Life, you know that both sets of Cliff’s grandparents owned dairy farms in PA. His parents were raised on dairy farms and they worked hard every day to keep the farms up and running. Cliff’s dad started milking cows when he was seven years old. He was responsible for a certain number of cows. He had to wake up at 4:30 every morning and milk his cows before school. Then, after supper, he had to go out and milk them again.
Cliff’s mom was the oldest of seven children. She and her sister took turns helping Cliff’s Grandpa and his uncles in the barn. When she did not go to the barn, she helped grandma with the cooking and cleaning in the house. The girl who stayed in the house also did the homework. The one who helped with barn chores that evening copied the homework by flashlight in the girls’ bedroom. Cliff’s mom told a story that one night Grandpa went out to the barn to check on a sick cow. Upon returning to the house he saw a light flickering in the girls’ bedroom. He was very upset that the girls were not sleeping, as he knew the girls needed to get a good night’s sleep to stay healthy.
Dairy farms are open 24-7; there are no vacation days, no snow days, no holidays. Chores had to be done every day. Needless to say, it could be a hard life at times but if you talk to any of Cliff’s relatives today, there is nothing but good times remembered.
Over the years, when Cliff and I (and even the girls) have mentioned to people that we live on a hobby farm, the reactions have ranged from inquisitiveness to disparagement.
“You shovel what?” some people would say. Others would say, “Doesn’t it smell?” One particular comment led Cliff to retell a story of his father.
Cliff’s dad grew up on a farm with seven siblings. It was a treat to go anywhere back then. They lived simply. Milking cows, shooting deer in the pasture for meat and harvesting corn for their suppers was their way of life. On one special occasion, Cliff’s grandfather got tickets to the circus for their whole family. I can only imagine the excitement of the children! The family dressed up in their Sunday’s best and headed into town. They found seats for their family next to a “well-to-do” woman.
Looking at them all, she said very loudly, “Plagued old farmers!” Abruptly, she got up and left. That label and the emotion it evoked stayed with Cliff’s dad his entire lifetime.
This leads me to wonder why farming in general is often looked down upon in society? Some people would never step foot in a barn. If it weren’t for farmers, that well-to-do woman wouldn’t have had food to eat. We all wouldn’t. Farmers have the strongest work ethic out of all professions in my opinion.
As I sat at mass last night, Christmas Eve, I started thinking about farmers, and animals, and barns. It hit me that Jesus Christ, Himself wasn’t “too good” to be in a barn. He was born in a barn and laid in an animal’s manger. If a barn was good enough for sweet, baby, Jesus then it is good enough for me!
This Christmas, I would like to thank all the farmers who work tirelessly to put food on all of our tables every day of the year. Your effort doesn’t go unnoticed or unappreciated by all of us at Embrace Country Life!
Sitting beside the fire on a Sunday evening reminiscing about our day. Earlier we enjoyed a wonderful coffee hour at our church with Santa and Mrs. Claus. After eating too many sweets, conversing with friends and taking photos of our children with the jolly couple, we headed home. The children and I tended to the animals in the barn while Deb prepared lunch and wrapped the presents for our 4-H club (Showstoppers) gift exchange Christmas dinner party.
Our 4-H club, the Showstoppers is comprised of really great people. We feel fortunate to be associated with such caring folks. This evening we met at the Lisle Fire Station for our Christmas party. Everyone contributed to the dinner and enjoyed a delicious meal. Following the meal, the children participated in the gift exchange. At a previous meeting they all drew names and kept their drawings a secret. It was all revealed tonight. The children called each other up one at a time and sat with that child as they opened this.her gifts. There were many expressions of gratitude, excitment and giggles. The parents were busy taking photos, commenting on how thoughtful the gifts were and how they seemed to fit each child's personalities and interests.
Following the gift exchange, the children participated in their photo contest. At our previous meeting in November they participated in a photography lesson. The children were instructed to take photos and enter one in a contest during the Christmas party. After all of the votes were counted Sarah's and Rose's photos tied with the same number of votes. The story behind Sarah's photo is as follows: she asked me to video her and Flash jumping at our hobby farm. Sarah then viewed the video and created the photo by taking a screen shot from the video (see the photo listed on this page). Both Sarah and Rose (who took a photo of a friend riding her horse down a dirt road near a field) were rewarded with horse themed photo frames for their pictures.
The evening concluded with the parents cleaning up (I volunteered as dishwasher) as the children were busy socializing over their presents and expressing their desires for a snow day tomorrow (the weather forecast is predicting snow and ice). On the drive home, Alicia, Sarah, Julia, Deb and I listened and sang along to FM 103.3 (24 hours of Christmas music for the month of December). We also reflected on the 4-H party and what a wonderful time we had spent with some really nice, wholesome people.
Flash (After 3 Weeks)
When we got Flash we noticed that he was skinny. We had the vet check him out and she said that he needed to be fed extra feed and hay. Since then we have noticed him start to fill in his withers and hips. The vet also told us to keep working with him (so he doesn’t get just fat, muscular too) so I’ve been jumping him with my sister Alicia (with her riding Sassy). Just yesterday I introduced him to the part of our land that wraps around our house (behind the pool), he was scared at first but after a couple runs through it, he now sees the path as “just another route.” Flash is amazing with both his health and training. I will keep you updated!
The day was Saturday November 9th 2013. Just a week before I realized I could not ride Lizzy, our 27 year old pony anymore because she was too old for the type of work I was putting her through (jumping, cantering, galloping etc.) So I went looking online for a new horse that I could ride and do all of these things with. After a couple days I found Flash. Flash was being sold with many other horses on craigslist. I told my father that we should look at him and he told me to call the owner. And, that I did. After about 30 minutes we had made an appointment that day to go up and ride Flash. When we got there the owner, Lisa, showed us a variety of horses we could buy. But none of them could compete with Flash. For example, we wanted an English riding horse; most of the horses she showed us were western. Also we wanted a tall horse so jumping would be easy and I would most likely not outgrow it. The tallest horse besides Flash was grey and grey horses tend to get cancer. After we brush, tacked, and rode Flash we realized that he was amazing! He rode both English and Western, jumped, did a little barrels and would canter starting from a walk! After the day we told the owner that we would think about it and get back to her later in the week.
The next two days I realized that I really wanted Flash. I told my dad and he called her. Apparently, someone came that morning and trailered him 40 minutes to an indoor arena then rode him and brought him back. But the good news was that we were going to pick up Flash Saturday at 9:00! I was so happy! After the news I couldn’t wait for Saturday!
Friday night, we got his stall ready and hooked up the trailer. But what we didn’t get ready was his name. The owner said that he went to summer camp and the campers named him “Taz” But I didn’t quite like that name. As I was looking at his stall-to-be I realized that it had a sign on it saying “Black ~ Sugar ~ Flash”. I then realized that “Black” meant that he was a black horse and “Sugar” would represent white or the white he has on him and “Flash” would represent how fast he is! Then I decided that Flash was a cool name and so did my sister, Alicia.
Saturday morning I woke up at 5 because I was so excited! But then I couldn’t go back to sleep so I played some games on my iPod then the iPad until I finally fell asleep at 5:30. Waking up at 7, I rushed downstairs, quickly ate, got dressed, grabbed my tea and went into the truck along with my dad and sister, Alicia. After a 1hr 15min drive we finally arrived and put Flash in the trailer. After all the paperwork and questions we finally headed back into the truck and drove home with a new friend.
Arriving home and getting Flash out, our other three horses were flipping out. Flash did very good in walking right down to his stall. Later that day, Alicia introduced Flash with our other gelding, Patches, and they instantly became best buds.
The next day we decided to open the top door so he could see the other horses too. But when we came back to check on him his stall door was spit in half and he was casually eating in the pasture. Sassy, the queen of the barn does not like Flash very much and has tried to kick and bite him while making very strange donkey-like noises.
Flash has been home for two days now and he’s doing very well! My dad fixed his stall door and he now hangs out with Patches all the time! I will keep you updated on his progress!
An end of an Era. November 1999, I purchased a used Yamaha G2 gas golf cart. The reasoning behind this purchase? The Spring of 1999 Alicia turned one year old. Debbie mentioned that she would like to take Alicia to explore the pond in the lower field. However, it was quite the walk with a one year old child. Thus, my buddy Rusty and I went to Tire-Land-USA and purchased a used golf cart. We brought it to my garage and cleaned it all up. I bought rubbing compound and we polished it until it looked new. Debbie was pleasantly surprised when she received the golf cart as a Christmas gift. Since then that golf cart was used non stop.
Over the years, all three of our girls learned to drive on that golf cart. It was used, abused and used some more. It has been stuck in mud, smashed into trees and the side of the garage. It hauled Barbies, hay bales, fishing equipment for the pond, feed bags, and firewood. It was even used to carry our trash cans and recycle bins down our 3/10 mile driveway. It carried our girls and their friends all over the fields. They drove it for hours on end. It was always a hit with visitors as they all wanted to ride in and drive the golf cart.
All of this use took a toll on the engine. Eventually, I had the engine rebuilt. However, in 2011 the engine tired out again. By then we had purchased a Kawasaki Mule to aid with the farm work. Thus, the out of commission golf cart was not missed. It literally stayed put for two years. That is until this past weekend. I pulled it out, pumped up a couple of the tires, cleaned it up and took some pics. We put it on Craigslist late last night at 7pm and within a half hour we had four phone calls. A gentleman from Elmira showed up at 10pm with a trailer and cash in hand.
With the glow of the exterior house lights shining on the golf cart we watched it leave Mountain Breeze Acres after almost 14 years of memories....
As with every year at Mountain Breeze Acres, we order a 22 ton load of logs from John Wagner (see the web site for his contact info). This year John gave us a nice variety of hardwood (oak, maple, beech, cherry, and some ash). As they say, firewood warms you many times, cutting, splitting stacking and burning it. We start out cutting the logs into chunks about 16 inches in length. I use my 20 inch bar Stihl MS 391 chainsaw to cut the logs. It really rips through the wood. My process includes sharpening the chain with a file every other tank full of gas. This ensures the chain saw is spitting out nice big pieces of saw dust.