Sunday, October 30, 2011

Sunday is Different

There's a lot to do.  Let's face it; Everyone is busy.  Whether you are part of a growing family, a student, retired-empty-nesters, newlyweds - or whatever stage of life - it's almost guaranteed that there are more obligations/projects/appointments/etc. than hours in the day. 
But Sunday should be different, right?  We go to Mass, of course, but is that the end of Sunday's "specialness"? 
In our family we make a sincere effort to have Sunday be noticeably different than the other days of the week.  We are trying to keep the day holy, to rest, to strengthen our relationships (with God and our children - and each other!)

 One of our favorite ways to spend Sunday afternoons is out enjoying the beauty of creation.  It makes sense, doesn't it?  God labored for 6 days to give us the created world, so perhaps using our day of rest to enjoy His creation is fitting?

When the weather cooperates, we go on a family hike in the mountains on Sunday.  
Family hikes have value for so many reasons:
  • we see sights that can't be seen from our house (or a car)
  • the girls learn valuable skills - water crossings, map reading, a little bouldering, persistence, plant and animal identification, teamwork
  • we keep ourselves in good physical shape
  • we retreat from the normal routine of our lives (phones, computers, office - and even our home, where there is always work waiting to be done) for a few hours
  • we are more aware and appreciative of creation because we're "in it" with no distractions
  • we're building a family tradition... Sunday hikes are more or less expected - and even looked forward to :)

A full-blown hike wasn't possible today, but we did spend some time in a state park that is just minutes from our house.  At this time of year, the campers and climbers have gone home, leaving all the sites to the locals, so we took advantage of the girls' favorite playground.  Though it's quite small, they happily play here for long periods of time.  Today we had the place to ourselves.

Thank you, God, for Sundays.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The H.U.G.O.

We have a shed. A really big shed. In fact, a 2400 square foot shed of which we are currently using about 30 square feet. We have named this shed the Huge Underutilized Garage Outbuilding (my co-workers know how fond I am of acronyms). We have quickly, however, received multiple requests along these lines: “Um, I heard you have a big shed … we have a __[fill in item]__ and could we maybe store it in your shed for a while?”
The HUGO in all her glory

Traveling throughout Wyoming, you quickly notice that very few people here really get rid of anything. Stuff you don’t need/want/require goes into your side yard, your garage, your front yard, etc. We are determined not to let Aspen Springs become subject matter for the Hoarders tv show.

But the HUGO does present some interesting opportunities. More than once in our few weeks at Aspen Springs, when discussing what do to with something that does not have an obvious place, I’ve said, “Let’s just put it in the HUGO in case we need it later.” Methinks this is the slippery slope to having a yard full of stuff (see above).

But as of today we’ve still got about 2000 square feet available in case you have a boat or camper…or anything I might want to play with. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Getting to Play Outside

We're happy about our new home for many reasons, but high on the list is the outdoor space for the kids.  We live in one of the least populated states in the country, but at our first house here, the girls had no room to run and play outside.  Not so anymore!  It's been so good to see them out exploring and enjoying.  Honestly, we've been a little surprised at how joyfully they've embraced the entire property.
There were still raspberries and strawberries to be picked in the garden the first couple weeks we were here, so they took that job on willingly.  When they were told that grasshoppers are a gourmet treat for chickens, they perfected their grasshopper catching technique - something that would have seemed entirely "gross" to me as a little girl :)  They have almost countless trees to climb - yeah!  We love our adopted state, but it's a hard existence for trees here, so we've learned to value them more than ever before.  
The girls have explored nearly every corner of our 5 acres, and though it makes me a bit nervous when I can't see or hear them, I do love catching glimpses of them out the windows.  Of course, they've also found the muddy, marshy parts of the property where the natural springs flow - and have explored the irrigation ditch that runs through the front pasture.  It's just impossible to keep kids away from water, isn't it?  Being girls, at least they haven't gotten IN the water, just played around it enough to end up with wet tights and shoes.  We have had to enforce a "boots only" rule when they go out to play beyond the lawn.
 One of the funniest things they've started doing is sledding.  No, we aren't covered in snow just yet.  They are sledding on grass.  We have a small dirt hill that was left-over from some project of the previous owner. The dirt has been sitting long enough that it's covered in grass and is the perfect size for all sorts of games.  They discovered that the metal sled will go down the hill quite nicely, so they've been rushing out to "sled" the last couple days.

Really, it is SO GOOD for them to have time and space to explore outdoors and make up games.  It's not like they haven't once complained of being bored since we moved, but they are definitely willing to head outside and "find something to do."  I don't know about the rest of you parents out there, but "find something to do" had been a VERY common phrase from us to them.  Hopefully we'll be using that phrase less frequently in the future.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Welcome to Aspen Springs

The first "ranch"
This homesteading adventure really began two years ago when we relocated our family to the Rocky Mountain West. We fell in love with the countryside, the weather, and the values of the culture here. Our first home was a nice, newer ranch style house, but sat on only a quarter-acre lot. With three young children, we quickly realized we needed more room. We also began to have dreams of a larger garden and room to raise small livestock.

The housing market here is very tough, but we happened upon a property one day that seemed to be just what we’d been looking for. We listed our house for sale, and after a tedious three months of showings and prayers to St. Joseph, we sold it and made our move.
Aspens around the pond

We’ve named our little hobby ranch, Aspen Springs for simple reasons: the property has several groves of Aspens on it (our favorite Western tree) and abundant water: two wells, a natural spring that feeds two ponds, and two irrigation ditches to which we have access. We have five acres just on the outskirts of town. We have neighbors, but they are not too close. The previous owner is a sweet older man who built the house 30 years ago and raised his family here. He was quite handy and kept things immaculate.

The house itself is around 5,000 sf (more space than we need actually, but we’re managing to fill it!) We have a huge garden, chicken coop, small barn, and an enormous steel shed. Best of all, we have many trees in addition to the Aspens (ash, poplar, cottonwood, willow, etc), almost all of which were planted by the prior owner. Right now we are surrounded in Fall colors and the birds are plentiful.

A few of the young ladies
We are trying not to jump into too many new projects, because we have lots of redecorating to do and some “taming” of the yard. But we did invest in 15 hens to fill the coop and are looking forward to fresh eggs in a few more months. We have also reserved two dairy goats that will be born this coming Spring. In addition to the fresh milk, we want to make cheese and soap. Meat rabbits are also coming soon - we hope - thanks to friends who are breeding some now.

In our few short weeks at Aspen Springs, we have settled in nicely and are really enjoying our adventure. The girls love exploring new parts of the pastures, visiting the hens, and bouncing on their new jumpoline (trampoline). Mark loves playing farmer on his new tractor, and Colleen is busy choosing paint colors and laying out the garden for next spring. We probably don’t know all we’re in for, but we’re keeping faith in our family motto, “The Lord will provide.” Thanks for vising our new blog - come visit again soon!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Presenting our new blog - on a special feast day

We are excited to publish our new blog, Aspen Springs. We chose today - October 22 - in honor of Blessed John Paul II, whose first "official" feast day is today.

We had the honor of seeing JPII in person on our first trip to Rome in the Jubilee Year of 2000. Every Catholic has "their pope" and JPII certainly is ours. His famous quotes, "Be not afraid" and "As the family goes, so goes the nation and whole world in which we live," have special meaning for us as we begin this new chapter in our family life.