I was out of town for 5 days last week working to further my education and edging closer to Dolphin MPS certification. It was a whirlwind trip and I got home late in the afternoon on the 21st.
My hubby has been a trooper this last year….. working full time, and managing the farm when I am out of town either educating others or getting educated myself. We are a great team, he and I, and we both see the benefits of what we are working towards.
As I drove up the driveway, I automatically began scanning my the pastures and doing a mental farm-ily checklist. I stopped and checked water troughs. The last one I checked caught me right in the heart. Despite the fact that there was a piece of wood floating in the trough (for little critters who might fall in and need a lifeboat), there were two dead squirrels. Drowned.
Of course, my first thought and breath prayer was that neither body belonged to Henri. It was not in an area that I could imagine she or her babies would be, but still….. it’s also not that far from the house. Charlie went out and disposed of the squirrels and cleaned the trough. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it… simply because I wasn’t sure who exactly had drowned. Let’s face it, squirrels all look pretty much alike. As much close contact as we have with Henri, I still can’t tell her apart from other squirrels except by her personality and approximate size.
We have incredible relationships with all of our animals out here, and although we grieve when one passes away, we are healthy about it. Life goes on, and so must we. What is nearly harder than death is when an animal comes up missing. It’s been a rare occurrence, but it has happened. Then you have a kind of limbo grief it’s hard to let go of… not knowing whether to grieve and move on or keep on hoping. Charlie hadn’t seen Henri the entire time I was gone so she had been missing already for about a week. As the days wore on, I started giving up on hope. I left nuts out and they didn’t get eaten. She really seemed to be gone, so my hope was that she had just gone into the wild and not drowned. That thought was a little sad too… but better than the alternative reason for her absence.
Today was a great day! Henri returned…. acting as tho she had never been missing. She looked thru the window and asked for nuts. Her favorite nuts come from our local pecan orchard, Foster Crossing Pecans.
Henri will snub the native pecans in favor of these babies. Just like the prodigal son…. only the best for our girl! (The owners are friends of ours and cannot believe we buy high end pecans for a squirrel. What can I say? She is worth it!)
Henri was more affectionate than usual now that she’s home, clearly happy to be with me and asking to be stroked for a few minutes before she got back to the business of eating and hiding pecans. I have no idea where she’s been, but my heart is lighter knowing she’s still with us.
Home is where your squirrel is, right?
My partner in crime, love of my life, bff, and hubby of 25+ years and I love to give. Over the years we’ve found various organizations that have pulled at our hearts. We’ve also been duped on more than one occasion. (It’s amazing how many organizations and individuals are out there who either improperly manage funds and/or who just want your money so they don’t have to work quite so hard.) Sad but true. We have gotten fairly good at vetting what and who we choose to give our money and our time to…. thank goodness! After all, we have extraordinarily busy lives with jobs, a farm, and a passion that combines all of the above. Ain’t got no time for nonsense, right?
This season is generally a time where hearts grow and giving flows, and I thought I’d give a shout out to one of our favorite international organizations, Reach Out Honduras. ROH was/is the vision of dear friends, Alex & Laura Waits. Not everyone listens when God speaks, and even fewer act on what is being spoken to the heart. You see, Alex and Laura lived the typical American dream….. great jobs, comfortable life in the country, a couple of kids and pets. All was well in their world.
God asked, and Alex and Laura said yes. You can see the result of their ‘yes’ here.
Charlie and I have been closely tied to Reach Out Honduras since day one. You see, Alex and Laura lived in our community and attended our tiny church. We watched their vision grow from a thought to an action and then a movement. We have both been on their Board of Directors (I have since ‘retired’) since day 1. Charlie spends countless hours in the spring each year putting together a benefit golf tournament that raises money to build school buildings. The buildings you see in the video are the result of combined donations of ‘average joe’ people. Ya’ll, this is a grassroots organization with no corporate backing, no one church denomination, no political affiliation. It’s just the result of good people doing good things with the gifts God gave them.
Getting to Puerto Lempira, Honduras is no easy feat. It is in one of the most remote parts of Honduras…. there are no roads to get there, so small plane or small boat is it. Travel generally takes two days to get there.
Charlie and I went down last summer for a week of work projects, and got to meet the kids and teachers at Reach Out Honduras’s school, Vida Abundante. Ya’ll, this region of Honduras is the poorest of the poor. Going to school beyond 6th grade requires payment to the government with money that most don’t have.
No money = No Education = No chance for betterment = The poverty continues.
The vision that God gave Alex is changing all of that. In less than 10 years, the poverty cycle is beginning to show signs of change. We have kids in college who want to come back to their remote home and make a difference for others. There are income producing jobs at the school for those who had none, and there is a spirit of hope that is literally tangible within the gates of the property.
Vida Abundante has become a place of self pride and hope in a region where there was very little of either.
Last weekend ROH had its second fund raising event of the year, the annual banquet. It is humbling to be in a room full of those who are there to give abundantly to a worthy cause expecting nothing in return. Most of the people will never meet the kids they sponsor, and yet they give anyway. They may never step foot in Honduras, and they give anyway. This is love, generosity, and hope’s hands and feet.
While ROH is a Christian based ministry, this organization is supported by all walks of life regardless of politics and religious beliefs, because we all believe in a common thing:
…… and the greatest of these, is Love. (1 Cor 13:13)
If you are looking for an organization to donate to this holiday season, there are over 240 living breathing hope filled individuals who have aspirations in life, and are praying for the opportunity. Please consider showing a little love and making Reach Out Honduras one of your charities of choice!
On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ReachOutHonduras/
Walking in Faith, Liz
When we began seriously weeding out chemicals from our lives and our farm, one of the largest looming threats was grasshoppers. Grasshoppers are a serious issue for farms and gardens in this part of Texas. They will literally eat you out of house and home some years…..and their abundant presence makes it virtually impossible to grow anything.
We first attempted gardening about 15 years ago…. one of the same years that grasshoppers were exceptionally abundant. The garden failed. More pointedly, it never even got started. The following year, we used a ‘safe’ control ( Nosema locustae ) that supposedly kills grasshoppers in the nymph stage. While there might have been a slight decline in population, it wasn’t enough to make gardening a successful endeavor. An elderly lady who had grown up on a farm suggested guineas to me as a viable solution…. and that first set of guineas started my appreciation of this odd looking poultry species.
Guineas are indigenous to Africa, and they are odd fowl. Most people have never heard of them and they are hard to describe…. they look like a cross between a turkey, a teradactyl, and a football (yes, their body is shaped like one). There are two types of people when it comes to guineas… those that love them and those that don’t.
Let’s just get the dirt out on ’em now:
All that to say, I am in the league of lovers when it comes to these birds. In my book, their assets outweigh their issues. Guineas are by far the best pest control for larger farmsteads. Yes, they may roam if they need food (they are great foragers), so they may not be ideal for a 1-2 acre farmstead…. but for larger acreage, they generally don’t travel more than 5 acres or so. Since we’ve had ours, we’ve had nearly zero issues with grasshoppers. We also came to realize that they do a magnificent job of eliminating and controlling ticks, fleas, and snakes. Copperheads, a poisonous snake found in this part of Texas, are especially common here. Since the addition of Guineas to our farm, we have had no issues with snakes (barring the occasional large rat or chicken snake). Ultimately, we estimate that they save us roughly 1200$ per year on pest control, without the use of harmful chemicals…. not to mention preventing the garden vegetation devastation from the hoppers.
Secondly, they are pretty remarkable watch dogs. Although they are a dull bunch of crayons in the knowledge box, I’d have to give them an A+ for being observant. They warn the free roaming chickens when a bird of prey is nearby, and the chatter can get pretty raucous if there is a new person or a new dog on the property. They are blind as bats at night, so most attrition occurs thru night time predation. During they day, they are actually quite good about banding together and making their cumulative appearance look (and sound) large and menacing. I once saw a group of them chase a coyote off with his tail between his legs! I can’t imagine a flock of chickens doing the same thing.
I can’t really say much about the bullying. In my book, they really aren’t much worse than some chickens and roosters are. Our guineas have been raised in the presence of chickens, so there really appears to be a symbiotic relationship between the two species. Last year, I actually had a rooster RAISE a handful of guinea keets (the babies). It was truly remarkable… especially watching how kind he was to them (note in the picture: the teen guinea keet sleeping on his back at night).
Guineas are prolific egg layers. They lay eggs until the nest is overflowing with 40-60 eggs… at which point they commence to sitting on them. Unless they get scared off, a guinea will sit for about 25-28 days on her pile of progeny. She is quite protective unless she fears for her life. Usually, about 30-40 babies hatch, and here is where some of the trouble starts. God clearly knew what he was doing…. giving them that many babies… because it takes that many to get just a handful of survivors. Apparently, guineas cannot count, and for the first few weeks post nesting time….. little feathered popcorn sized keets get left everywhere to die. It’s tragic… especially to my tender heart. So, whenever I find a nest (they are ground nesters, and do a pretty darn good job of camouflaging), I watch it closely and mark the days til the estimated hatching occurs. Once that happens, I herd them all (or catch them up) into a safe pen for a few weeks until they are both big enough and strong enough to survive. Despite my best efforts, only a small percentage ever reach adulthood. The parents are an odd mix of aggressively protective and negligently passive. This year and last year, I think the inbreeding of our guinea clan has actually led to either an increase in IQ or better parenting skills. Regardless, we are heavy in the guinea inventory…… real heavy. In past years, we have averaged 8-14 adult guineas at any one time. Today…. well, I’m just not sure exactly how many we have, but it’s over 30 for sure. Guineas are tree roosters at night, and as winter approaches, so usually do the bobcats and owls. Our livestock guard dogs do an excellent job of keeping ground predators away, but nighttime arboreal predators are a harder thing to manage. I still doubt we will lose that many to natural attrition. Next spring, I feel certain that I’m going to be looking for homes for the new batches of keets that will start hatching in June. As much as I love having them around, too much of a good thing is, well….. too much.
Hey there....thanks for stopping by! This is me (Liz James)... an eclectic mixture of holistic (and organic) farmgirl meets pharmacist. It's a synergy that works well as I speak truths and dissect fact from fiction. If you're looking for healthier living options, you've come to the right place!