Monday, December 28, 2015

Life at Cardinal Ridge

The sky is white and the trees are bare. The temperature is a bizarre and humid 70 something degrees Fahrenheit. It has been raining cats and dogs for days,and the wind that blows up the ridge is frightening at times. Every day there are new maple branches to drag away to the brush pile. The creek is high and running fast. Josh and I just hiked down to the pasture to take some measurements so we can estimate our fencing costs. We watched huge trees being effortlessly whisked downstream in the muddy current. The bluff on the opposite side of the creek is playing host to several beautiful waterfalls. You could feel the roar of the rushing water. Incredible. I still can't believe we live here.

The farm name we settled on is Cardinal Ridge. One of the first things we noticed after moving in was the large number of cardinals that flock here every morning and evening. I have never seen cardinals come or go in a flock. In a pair, yes. But we easily have about 2 dozen that regularly come like a flock of starlings and visit our bird feeders and bushes looking for seeds. And since our house sits on a ridge overlooking the pastures and creek, we thought Cardinal Ridge was the perfect farm name. So there it is!

After church yesterday we drove around our former stomping grounds to run errands. The place seemed so foreign to me, like we hadn't lived there for years. It's only been a few months here at our new place but it seems like forever because we have been so busy trying to fix up the old farmhouse and settle into the property. We currently only have one exceptionally outdated and tiny bathroom. There are 3 bedrooms downstairs and 2 almost finished rooms upstairs. When we need to replace the roof in a few years, we want to have new trusses put in so we can raise the height of the upstairs room, install dormers to allow more light and air in, and expand the rooms. If it's possible, I would even like to try to install another bathroom upstairs. (I keep referring to the upstairs as "The Dorms" whenever Josh and I talk about moving the kids up there.) I want to combine two of the bedrooms downstairs into one master suite with our own bathroom and leave the other as an office/guest room with a Murphy bed.

Our farm is almost 70 acres. The homestead sits on about 2 acres on a ridge above the bottom pasture. Beyond the pasture is Johnson Creek, a major water source for the area. It is a large, and in some places, very deep, creek the meanders its way along the boundaries of our property. After a good rain, the creek turns an opaque brown color, sort of like coffee with milk, with strong rapids and our pastures become a shallow swamp in many places. Where the yard tapers down towards the pasture is a wooded hill that would be perfect for pigs. I want to thin out the trees and plant some oaks there so that in the fall we can finish them on acorns. The acorns are high in tannins (the compound in leaves that turns puddles and creeks brown, it gives tea it's color) which not only give the meat a delicious flavor, but also help preserve the meat so that lasts longer.

We have already installed new flooring in most of the living spaces in the house to cover the old asbestos laminate. The dark wood paneling on the walls in the living and dining rooms has been painted a creamy white color to brighten up the space. It makes a huge difference in the feel of the whole house. The basement now houses 51 noisy, smelly guinea keets. They will be 4 weeks old tomorrow. They are supposed to be kept indoors for 8 weeks, but the smell is so offensive and they are so big and feathery that Josh is building 2 movable pens for them so we can keep them outside. At night they will be moved close one of our outbuildings so they can have a heat lamp to keep warm. The goal is to have them moved out by Friday. Once they are allowed out full time their job will be to gobble up ticks and snakes around the farm. We will leave them to reproduce on their own and will coop them up at night to try to maintain a steady population. They are also excellent "watch-dogs" and will sound the alert if anything out of the ordinary is going on or there is a visitor on the property.

We also have 3 Silver Fox rabbits, a buck and two does. When the does have reached their mature weight we will breed them to the buck. The babies will be raised and eaten and their pelts tanned to sell to crafters. Josh is also working on building a movable rabbit pen so that they can be mostly grass-fed. Their manure will be a perfect fertilizer for the lawn and pasture. Right now they live in three separate cages outside in our "barnage", (this is the building beside the house that looks like a barn, but functions like a garage.) While they have very sweet temperaments, they are still skittish so we have been trying to socialize them to help them be more comfortable around us.

An order of chicks will be arriving in the middle of February, bees and beekeeping equipment are scheduled for an April delivery and turkeys will join the menagerie in May, just in time to start fattening them up for Thanksgiving! Josh has been taking orders from his coworkers and friends from church have also expressed an interest in purchasing meat and eggs from our farm.

I realize this all sounds ambitious. When I write it all out like this I find myself thinking, "Woah! What on earth are we doing!?" We have previous experience with keeping rabbits, so that is something we are comfortable with. The birds have been pretty simple, and once they move outside will only get easier. Right now we have to muck out their brooding pen (which is delightful), feed them and water them. When they move outside, we will just need to keep their feeders and waterers full and move their coop to a new location each day. No more bedding to lug in and out of the basement and to change each day and no escaped birds to catch and put back in with the rest of the group.

Josh has been receiving trailers of very sturdy wood which had been previously used to hold the large windows being installed in his company's new headquarters being built in downtown Nashville. It is a LEEDS project, so the window company is giving all of the wood to us for free if we just come pick it up when the trailer is full. They are happy to get rid of it. We have already gotten two and there are at least 6 more to come! The building will be about 15 stories and will have lots of windows. It is this wood that we are building the coops out of, and probably will be able to also use it for fencing.

Once the rabbits are in their movable pen, it will be the same thing. Move them to new pasture, make sure they have water, etc. Now the bees are going to take the most work because we have no idea what we are doing. Our neighbor is the head of the Cheatham County Beekeeping Association and is going to help us get going. James loves stinging insects and has asked our neighbor if he would take him as an apprentice. (Weird, I know. But oh-so-handy if you like honey and food. Without bees, there would be neither!)

Josh has been looking for a tractor so he can work the overgrown pastures and prepare them for livestock. He just hasn't found one that fit our budget and our needs and we really need to get working in the pastures. One idea he is pursuing right now is buying a few goats to rotate through the pastures in order to clear the brush and weeds. After the goats go through, he wants to run some pigs in there to let them dig it all up. Then he can go in and broadcast seed by hand and get something growing there for the chickens and rabbits.

We won't be raising any dairy animals yet, so milking won't be an issue. We also aren't breeding any large livestock yet, so we won't have to deal with any problems associated with laboring animals. When it comes to butchering we have a friend who was a missionary in Africa for several years and has lots of experience butchering goats. Our neighbor used to be an avid hunter and now manages the Research Farm for the University of Tennessee, so between the two of them and YouTube, Josh should be able to manage that just fine. There is a smokehouse in the backyard that we are very eager to try out once we have some fat pigs!

We are in the process of applying for a Tax ID and now that we finally have an internet connection (via satellite, since there are no other options out here!), we are researching how to establish a website.

In the future we hope to build some small cabins on the property and offer them as vacation rentals. We have some nice land for hiking and horse riding trails in the back and could cater to that niche. Josh and I have picked out about 4 or 5 different cabin sites, all out of sight and earshot of each other, with lots of privacy and beautiful views. There is one cabin site Josh found two weeks ago up on a bluff. He didn't realize it was on our property until he went out laying boundary stakes with our neighbor. I haven't seen it yet for myself, but Josh said that it overlooks the creek but is high enough to also give views of the surrounding hills. That is where we would like to build a large family sized cabin. All in due time!

Some fun things that have happened or we have learned since moving here are:

1. Josh promised to buy Lydia her very own zebra to raise. (Don't ask...I still have no idea what he was thinking!)

2. Gideon is terrified of any and all insects. Most especially ladybugs. And ladybugs abound here at Cardinal Ridge. I wish I could have recorded his shrieking when he accidentally stepped on a slug last week. It was incredible.

3. We participated in an auction at a home 1/4 mile away from our farm and won 4 beds for a total of $2! We also won a HUGE working chest freezer for $30, a box of cast iron pans for $15 and a glass punch bowl set for $4. It was SO MUCH FUN! (The 2000+ square foot home, workshop and it's 15 acres on Johnson Creek on only sold for $19,000!)

4. We have gotten to know 4 of the men and women that grew up in this house and have learned some fascinating family history as well as local history. Their grandfather's family was one of the two families who founded Charlotte, TN. Their family owned all of the property on this side of the creek, and another family owned the property on the other side.

5. There used to be several county roads that criss-crossed throughout our property. One of them was the road the original post office sat on, and was also the location of the lynchings that used to happen here way back when. (The lynchings did NOT occur on our property!)

6. There are abnormally large and freakish looking spiders here. They randomly hang down on strands of web from trees and catch on your windshield, or face, whichever happens to come in contact with it first. I've also found that the wolf spiders here can survive an entire wash cycle in a washing machine.

7. Our post office, which is a good 20-25 minutes away, is in the town SQUARE. We actually have a town square! This is where our courthouse is, which is special, because it is the oldest courthouse still in use today in the United States!

Now, I have to try to figure out how to download the pictures off of my camera so I can upload them here and show you our little paradise! Once we get a 2nd bathroom installed, call or email to plan a visit!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Teach Them Diligently

We are looking forward to attending the Teach Them Diligently Conference next month. It is on March 19-21 here in Nashville.

Last year Josh and I learned so much about HOW children learn during different stages of development and found so many resources that were so helpful to me. It also helped Josh want to become so much more involved in our homeschool. It has been such an encouragement to the whole family to have Daddy be hands on with our lessons now!

We especially enjoyed sessions by Sonya Schaefer (Charlotte Mason), Mark Hamby (Lamplighter), the Kendrick brothers (Sherwood Films), a few of my favorite bloggers like Amy Roberts (Raising Arrows) and Crystal Paine (Money Saving Mom), as well as speakers from Apologia, Institute for Creation Research, and Answers in Genesis.

Here in Nashville the conference is held at the amazing Gaylord Opryland Hotel. It is absolutely incredible. We like to go there for "nature hikes" when the weather is bad outside.

Yes...indoor nature hikes.

There is even a boat ride.


Crazy, I know!

AND...Grandparents get in free too! Take advantage of this, Grandparents!! I think all Christian parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and teachers should try to go once...even if they dont homeschool. It is very inspiring and such a good reminder of WHY we ought to invest so much in the lives of the children we love.

Which sounds like, "Duh! I dont need a conference to tell me that!"

Yes we do!

It is so easy to forget when you are "in the trenches"!

We hope to see you there!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Summer Fun In Town

Before Gardening Class
James getting ready to release ladybugs
What a busy summer we have had! It has been sort of hectic, but lots of fun too. The kids have been participating in all sorts of free local activities. From gardening classes at a historical farm to evening symphony performances in the park to bird hikes and play time at the mud park. We have been enjoying the myriad of things available to us in Nashville.

JoyAnna in her gardening hat
The Nashville Symphony has a series of free programs that they perform at local parks and we were fortunate to attend two of them. There was something so special about listening to all of those beautiful instruments singing together under the stars. James and JoyAnna were so excited to see how many instruments they could recognize, Lydia loved the lightning bugs that lit up the summer sky, and Gideon just wanted to be snuggled and nursed.

Intensely watching all of the instrumentalists take the stage and warm up

Happy to be at her first Symphony Performance!
 We also did things like "Touch A Truck Day", where a local park has all different types of community service vehicles on hand for kids to come and touch, sit in, explore and ask questions about. Each truck had long lines, so we could only pick a few. The ones the kids chose were the Police SWAT team truck, one of those huge mowers they use to bush hog the fields, they sat in a police car and a bucket loader. Once in awhile someone would "touch" the horn button. Wowzers! Was that ever loud!! Giddy was a champ and slept the whole time in the baby carrier.

On our way to "Touch a Truck!"
Lydia in the police car


We visited Old Stone Fort State Park. It sounded intriguing in the Tennessee book we borrowed from the library and we were so excited to go! When we got there we were totally disappointed. It was NOT what we were expecting at all, very hot, and the hiking trail had terrible cliffs dropping off the side of it down into a rocky river gorge. Not ideal for a bunch of little ones. It was so bad Lydia screamed hysterically until I took her off the trail and into a grassy field where we got eaten alive by mosquitoes and burnt by the sun. Ah...good times. But there was so redemption...we got lessons in how to throw an Atlatl!!! SUPER COOL!! 

Trying out the Dugout Canoe (that was full of icky rainwater, so they all had to pile to the front!)
James throwing the atlatl

JoyAnna's turn!

Beware of Trail Side Cliff!! Can anyone say Tallulah Gorge?!

SO FAR we haven't had any casualties...but beware!

Gnarly tree I found along the trail!
James and JoyAnna have participated in bug classes, bird classes, wildlife classes, plant classes, and all sort of fun things at Warner Park. Every time we go there are exciting things to see and learn. On one of our recent trips we saw hummingbirds, two new species of bird that we hadn't yet seen, a praying mantis, many stinkbugs, and a monarch butterfly that just hatched and was drying it's wings on a milkweed plant! Warner Park is also our favorite place to hike and play in the mud.

James acting like his favorite bug at the bug class at Warner Park (he's the only one with a hat on)

We also went to see Andrew and Skye Peterson at the Warden and the Wolf King book release. They performed "My Love Has Gone Across the Sea", and it was all that we expected and more! Skye sings like a bird. I'm sure her daddy is proud. James wanted to stick around to meet her, (I think he fell in love as soon as she began to sing!) and we stood in line for a very long time, but we had some diaper shortage issues that forced us to leave our place in line. (I really try, but sometimes I am terrible at keeping a well-stocked diaper bag!)


So many people showed up for this that we were some of the last people to be able to find any standing room at the back of the bookstore. There were toothy cows, fangs, gargan rockroaches, and even Pete the Sock Man was there!
Gargan Rockroach

Fearsome Toothy Cow

All We Want For Christmas Is...No Toys, Please!

Dear Friends and Family,

It's that time of year again and we are all busy shopping for Christmas gifts.

Ho! Ho! Ho! and all that jazz.  Or not.

Josh and I usually get asked about what gifts our children might enjoy for Christmas, so this year we thought we would just send a note out to help with some ideas if you were planning to send something. If not...great! Plan a visit instead!

Please. No. Toys.  

We will be moving soon and our children are up to their necks in toys already.

But...anything that we can do together as a family is a great idea!

Things like: (Click on any of the blue links below to see what we 're talking about!)

I. Gift Certificates or Tickets to do activities
2. Restaurant Gift Cards/Groupons (We love eating out as a family!)
3. For those who just prefer to give a gift that can be unwrapped, here are some ideas:
4. Or don't send anything and just come visit us in 2015!!!  (THIS IS THE BEST GIFT YOU COULD GIVE US!)

We love you and hope to see all of you sometime in the next year!!

Joshua, Heather, James, JoyAnna, Lydia and Gideon

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Word of the Week - Psalm 1:1-2

Here is our first verse! 

Psalm 1:1-2

"Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, 
nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers."


From Our Family to Yours

Several weeks ago Josh hung a white board in our kitchen. He wrote the first two verses of Psalm 1 on it and we recited it before each meal. The following Sunday he added the next two verses. Soon we had memorized the whole Psalm. That was encouraging!!

Won't  you join us in hiding God's Word in your hearts too? You will be so glad that you did! Each week we will add a new verse or two in case you want to memorize what our family has been working on too.

"I have hidden your word in my heart,
 that I might not sin against you.
Praise be to you, Lord;
teach me your decrees. 
With my lips I recount
all the laws that come from your mouth.
I rejoice in following your statutes
as one rejoices in great riches.
I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways."

-Psalm 119:11-15


Wednesday, August 13, 2014


James recently lost his first two teeth!
Last summer when we were visiting Tennessee James had a dental problem. He was in a lot of pain. I visited the Weston A. Price Foundation to see if I could find a local dentist who did not advocate for the use of flouride and who would help us in our efforts to remineralize his teeth. We found a wonderful dentist in the area (who even accepted our insurance plan!) and paid him a visit. We absolutely loved him! He was very supportive of our desire to maintain our health through diet and natural methods and had great advice. He encouraged us to keep taking cod liver oil and suggested we visit a nearby grocery to purchase raw milk.

Look at that beautiful yellow milk! That's nutrition, folks!

We finally decided to make the 1 hour trip. In Florida, it was (and may still be, I am not sure) legal to sell raw milk to people as long it was/is labeled "pet milk", but never for human consumption. In Tennessee, it is not legal to label it as pet milk. The only way to legally purchase raw milk is to purchase a "cow share". You pay a certain amount to buy a portion of a cow. That money goes to care for the cow and feed it. I have seen this cost anywhere between $25 and $50 in our area. Then when you receive your milk there is a certain fee per gallon to cover the labor for bottling it and delivery charge.

Who doesn't love cream?

It took a lot of effort for me to not to laugh out loud when we entered the store to inquire about purchasing milk. Here is the scene that unfolded: Josh walked in holding Lydia with James and JoyAnna in tow. I came in afterwards with Gideon just as Josh cautiously leaned towards the lady behind the counter. He asked in a voice just barely above a whisper, "Do you have any raw milk?" The lady, perhaps playing along?, leaned forward and quietly asked, "Are you part of the program?" It was a little unnerving, like we were participating in a drug deal, but mostly hysterical for the same reason. How ridiculous we must have looked! She was such a sweet lady and explained the process, we signed up and brought back two gallons of milk. One is in the freezer for next week and the other is half empty already! We had some with our lunch, and Josh and I are sharing some fresh brownies and milk right now. It is creamier than pasteurized and homogenized milk, but otherwise tastes the same. Wonderful!

When talking about the herd share program, the lady behind the counter said,

"You can buy alcohol. 
You can buy drugs. 
You can buy cigarettes. 
But you can't buy milk. 
It's silly, isn't it?"

Yes, we totally agree. Our country is "udderly" backwards.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Photo Shoot

Here are some group photos I took of the kiddies last week. James is 6, JoyAnna is 4, Lydia is 2 and Gideon is 7 weeks old in these pictures.

Enjoying June in Nashville

June has been the month of fun, educational and free events in Nashville! JoyAnna took a wildlife class at Warner Park to learn how to walk quietly and observe birds and other animals. She loved it! James took an insect class there a week later and learned to identify different insects.  We usually meet friends there, play in the mud and then splash in the creek before we have a picnic and go home for naps. Here is a picture of James with his bug class…they were supposed to look like their favorite bug for the picture. You should have been there…it was hysterical! (James is the only one in a hat).
Insect Class Warner Park
We went strawberry picking in Lascassas, Tennessee. It was so much fun and the farmer was so sweet to the children. We picked a nice big basket full of gorgeous, ripe strawberries. And not the giant, mutant ones you get at the store. Perfectly sweet, tiny little strawberries…the way they ought to be. JoyAnna wore her strawberry dress…I wish I could have gotten better pictures. (I was sitting in the trunk of the van trying to take pictures with my left hand while nursing Gideon. Tricky, tricky, tricky!)
The Nashville Symphony performs FREE community concerts in June. We went to two of them. The children had never been to hear a symphony performance before, and I was surprised at how much they enjoyed it! Except for Gideon. He was angry. But I think it had more to do with being strapped into a car seat than the performance.
Lydia had us laughing so hard because she was so into the music, bobbing her head and tapping her foot whenever the music became loud and upbeat. Once it began to get dark, the lightning bugs came out and lit up the air all around. It was such a wonderful experience!

Last Friday we went to something called “Touch a Truck”. The kids got to climb in and learn about emergency and construction vehicles. For free. It was so neat. We got there towards the end and didn’t get to sit in all of the trucks, but they got to go in a SWAT Hummer, a huge tractor, and a police car. They had a few fire trucks, a police motorcycle, and some construction trucks too. Afterwards we met Daddy for lunch which made it an even more special day!

Slugs and Bugs

JoyAnna and Lydia got to go to a Slugs and Bugs mini-concert at Logos Bookstore in Nashville. Erma and I took them while Daddy and James went with Erpa over to Johnson City to pick up our van. It was so much fun!


(Can you see JoyAnna and Lydia sitting on the floor?) I got to talk to Randall Goodgame and his wife a little. They are so very sweet. Their three children were also there and sang too. I loved that they did that!

Andrew had no idea where the bunny (that he was supposed to have hidden) was hiding! :)

They were there with Jonathan Rogers who was doing a book signing for the re-release of his Wilderking Trilogy. I had never heard of him before and got to talk to him a little too.


The bookstore owners were very kind. They had a gentle old dog that JoyAnna instantly bonded with. She’s some sort of dog whisperer, I think. It is a really nice bookstore that I have been wanting to go back to.

A little while after we got back home, Josh pulled up in our van. I was so thankful that they had made it back safely and to know that whenever Gideon finally came, there would be a place for him to sit!