Well, friends, Christmas has officially arrived at our barn! Last week, Mardi and I were busy laying peel and stick vinyl flooring in our barn’s “hangout” room. Probably not the best time of year to begin a DIY project, but we really wanted to put a tree up at the barn this year, so it was good motivation to get the job done. And the flooring goes in so quick and easy…even Mardi and I can do it on our own. It made such a difference in the room, too. Now it is so much more warm and cozy feeling, which is awesome when you are doing chores in the winter!
Once we got the flooring done, we headed out to pick out a tree…at Wal-Mart. Ugh, I know, I know. A real one would have been so much more appropriate for a barn, but then it wouldn’t have had the beautiful fake snow on it! We also grabbed a couple of super cheap ornaments that fit the barn theme perfectly. Now we just needed to decorate!
Mardi made those yummy sugar cookie bars that we all love, and I brought some other (store-bought) goodies over, and we had ourselves a little tree-trimming cocoa party! We even let the kids help decorate the tree! Wasn’t that nice? I thought so. Okay, so I did move a few ornaments when they weren’t looking, but shh…don’t tell.
We had a great time decorating and eating and sipping our cocoa. And it was fun watching the horses and barn cats watching us through the window. I said I kind of felt like we were the animals behind glass at the zoo and the animals were looking in at us humans. All that was missing was a sleigh ride…but we are working on that, so maybe next year!
I hope you enjoyed this little tour of our barn decked out for Christmas. And if you have your own little cocoa party, don’t forget to make these sugar cookie bars! They are the perfect way to send your kids into a sugar induced frenzy! Trust me, I know from experience. That room got a little small with six of our seven kids plus our parents inside. I’m thinking of one kid in particular that almost made this mama lose her cool. Hey, who am I fooling? I did lose my cool…but only once or twice!
Anybody else’s kid get super hyper (with or without sugar cookie bars) from about Thanksgiving til Christmas? Let me know so I know I’m not alone…please…anyone…??
Last week, we had a barn party. We had been talking about having one for three years now and decided that this was the year. A picture in a Country Living magazine of a table set up with hay bales for chairs in the main aisle of a barn was the inspiration for our party. We started working on it a week before so we didn’t have to do everything the last minute. B-u-t, we still had a ton to do and were busy running around getting everything done right up until guests arrived. Of course. That just seems to be how we roll. And we couldn’t ask the horses to quit pooping for a week, so what’s a girl (or two) to do!
Also, since it was set for September 23rd, we thought it would be perfect fall weather, and a perfect way to celebrate the beginning of the season. So we envisioned cool, crisp air and thought a soup bar would be an easy way to feed a lot of people. Wrong. Mother Nature did not cooperate at all! It was 90 degrees and hotter than heck. Who would have thought?! We sure didn’t, since that kind of weather is extremely rare in the summer here in Michigan, let alone late September.
Well, all week we swept, vacuumed, dusted, knocked down cobwebs, strung lights (zillions!), hauled tables and chairs, decorated, and followed behind the horses with a manure rake to pick up every little poop (okay, not quite, but almost). All while we sweated our bras off and wondered if it would all be worth it. And despite the heat, it surely was. For one, the barn was cleaner than our houses last weekend.
We also had a great turnout! It was so fun hosting the party at the barn with the horses being nosy and hanging out by the fence checking everything out. Adults and kids alike enjoyed each other’s company visiting with one another and eating lots of good food. We made six different soups that were all delicious…chili, taco soup, stuffed green pepper soup, cheesy potato, chicken noodle, and white chicken chili. We had bread, cornbread, cheese, and crackers. And between us, Kendal, and our mom, we had a huge dessert table! Mom made peanut butter fudge and Kendal made apple crisp. Mardi made sweet and salty Chex mix, almond bars, scotcheroos, sugar cookie bars, and pecan pie bars. Megan made monster cookie bars, smore’s brownies, and southern pecan praline cake. We also had some friends bring dessert, too! It was like dessert heaven!
We set up a craft table outside for kids, which stayed busy pretty much the whole night. The older boys played football and the older girls helped out with the little kids. Chris drove the tractor and gave hayrides through the woods and down the road. And once the sun went down, we were all much more comfortable. The trees down the drive were lit up, as well as the inside of the barn, and it just looked so pretty. We clipped hydrangeas from our mom’s yard and they made the prettiest centerpieces, especially since they were free! A clipped branch from the woods strung with fairy lights provided decoration for the food tables, along with little baskets of apples and cattails. Cornstalks adorned the barn inside and out. And the string lights hanging from the ceiling provided just enough light to keep it festive. I wish we had beautiful pictures to show you all, but we were so busy visiting that we failed to get great shots. You’ll just have to use your imagination, as these pictures just don’t do it justice.
Whew! You probably weren’t interested in all of the little details, so forgive us. We are just having fun reliving it, especially since it might never happen again! Okay, we’re joking…we loved it. We just haven’t quite forgotten how much work it was yet! Give us a year!
In case you are interested in any of the recipes we used, see below for links to any we used online.
We recently had our first hay day of the year. It involves hitching up a trailer to the truck, going over to the next town and stacking the truck and trailer with hay. Like, 130 bales or as much as we can fit. It was almost like an emergency because we were down to 6 bales. We were close to having the horses graze in our front yards. Sander would have loved it, because he’s not fond of mowing. Anyway, this was the first time we ever had use of 2 trucks and trailers. It was awesome! David, Sheldon, and I took one and Chris, Megan, and my Dad took the other. David and Sheldon filled one truck and trailer up while I counted bales (well, I tried….I lost track a few times and had to start over). Then the other truck came and we took off to unload into our barn. Having two trucks and trailers meant we can make half the trips we normally do to get the 1,000 bales that we need. We have a borrowed hay elevator we use to get the bales into the loft. It was the perfect temperature, too. Usually our timing is impeccable and it’s in the 80’s and muggy.
We’ve learned a lot about stacking hay these past few years. Like, what to wear and what not to wear. Megan knows what to wear and I know what not to. She always wears jeans and I usually wear yoga pants….no more, though. Hay sticks to yoga pants like lint to a lint roller. Like flies to a flystrip. Like white on rice….you get the picture. I once went into a gas station to get a pop in between loads…..with so much hay stuck to my pants, I was embarrassed. But my thirst won out over my pride. As far as shirts go, that’s a tough one. It’s such hot and sweaty work, it’s tempting to wear a tank. But the hay is so scratchy, and it has uncanny ability to get into the craziest places. As long as I live, I’ll never forget the discomfort of hay stuck in my bra. It doesn’t matter what shirt you wear, hay will get underneath it. Maybe a turtleneck would work if it wasn’t so hot! Don’t even get me started on hay stuck in our boots….
Megan and I don’t mind hay days, probably because we didn’t grow up having to do it (like David did). It’s a family affair….many hands make light (but scratchy!) work. One year Megan made these amazing brownies, so now it’s a must.. On Pinterest, they’re called ‘Slutty’ brownies (gasp!), but we named them ‘What the Hay?’ brownies. They’re super delicious but calorie-laden, but we figure, why not? After all that work, we’ve earned them. We’d be happy to share them with you if you help us on our next hay day. We’ll probably have at least two more of them!
I took my first ride of the season yesterday, and boy was it fun. Mardi and I are fair-weather riders, so needless to say, we don’t put many miles on Colin and Angus between November to April. We also have these kids that like to make us chauffeur them around everywhere, so sometimes it isn’t always easy to find the time. Either way, it seems like there is always some reason I don’t ride as much as I want to. I probably shouldn’t have yesterday either…my three kids all had friends or neighbor kids over, so I left my poor husband to look after about seven (or was it eight?) kids by himself. Nevertheless, I took advantage of his generosity and headed to the barn.
I’m not gonna lie, I still get nervous riding sometimes, especially after a few months off. Something about getting on a 1500 pound animal that has a mind of his own, and has been known to freak out at imaginary monsters on the other side of the fence. Mardi and I didn’t even start riding until our 30’s, and sometimes I wonder what we were thinking! Wait…I know. We pictured ourselves moseying along a trail on a horse with nerves of steel, who never would dream of spooking. Well…that was just plain naive. It’s gonna happen sooner or later. And it has. Even if you’ve had way more successful rides than scary ones, it’s so easy for your mind to go back to those scary times when you put your feet in the stirrups.
Riding has definitely shown me how rewarding it can be to step out of my comfort-zone. I have never considered myself adventurous or brave, and I’m still not. But I saddle up despite my fears because it’s too fun not to. And I don’t want the what-ifs to control my life and steal my joy. What if I fall and get hurt? What if something happens to one of my kids? What if we start a blog and nobody reads it and it’s a total failure? I could go on forever. But that isn’t what God wants for us, thankfully. He reminds us over and over again in the Bible not to live in fear. Here are two of my favorite verses about conquering fear and remembering that God is with me wherever I am…even on the back of a horse!
And what if I don’t fall…or fail? What if I put my trust in God and do my best and just enjoy the ride?
For those of you who are not familiar with the Liberty Belles, we take care of four horses on a daily basis. Or we used to, up until last week. Now we are down to three for the moment. We sold our palomino quarter horse named Flossie to a friend of ours. She is just five and way too spunky for our kids. We wanted it to work…she’s cute, friendly, and has nerves of steel. Unfortunately, she is incredibly stubborn and will turn a ride into a wrestling match if she knows she can get away with it. And she knows she can. She took my Milla on an equestrian version of a Nantucket Sleigh Ride. She bucked off a friend. She tried to nip once or twice, and is a stinker in the cross ties. Despite all of that, we loved her. And we know she’ll make a great horse with the right rider, which made it even harder to part ways.
That’s probably one of the hardest parts of horse ownership…finding the right horse to match the rider. We knew our first mistake was getting her so young, but we loved how calm she was. I tend to look for the most bombproof horse around, but sometimes that’s not always the answer. Mardi and I are still relatively new at this…only owning our own horses for four years now. And Flossie’s the second “kid horse” to not live up to our expectations. Horse ownership is not for the faint of heart, we have come to realize.
Luckily, Mardi’s daughter Marek has owned a cute little Arab named Nina for about eight years now, and she is perfect for my girls to ride. Marek has since outgrown her and moved on to another horse. Nina is calm, mostly obedient for a mare, doesn’t kick, bite, buck, rear, or bolt. So even though she is too skinny and her white coat is always dirty, she can’t canter anymore, and she looks pretty average next to our Friesians, we appreciate her steady nature. In other words, she’s worth the hay!
This is a picture of my youngest, Fynnlay, on Nina last summer. (She does always wear a helmet, but we were just posing in the round pen.:) For those of you searching for the perfect horse…Mardi and I wish you good luck! There is one out there…we’ve learned you just might have to do a little compromising!
Did you ever have a horse who didn’t work out? Let us know…so we don’t feel so bad!
Spring has officially arrived! Even in Michigan, with freezing temperatures still, I see trees budding, hardy perennials sprouting, and our horses shedding! After months of no green grass or flowers and naked trees and shrubs, even my kids rejoice over something as simple as a tree budding! The temperatures aren’t quite comfortable yet…yesterday was only in the 30’s, but we have had a few “teaser” days where it reached the 50’s and the kids ran outside and played without coats and boots, hats and mittens. Its funny how light and free you feel going outside without all of those layers on the first few times! That is one of the reasons why I love Winter…it makes me appreciate Spring even more!
So to help celebrate this wonderful season, I have added a few decorations and greenery around the house.
And just in case you were wondering what a shedding horse looks like, here’s my beautiful boy Colin…
And the handful of hair I get when I pet him…He’s just wanting to shed all of his winter layers, too!