The past five months

The past five months


It’s hard to believe five months have already passed since Fiona joined our family, hard and yet easy. Because in some ways it feels like our family couldn’t be complete without her, like she must have always been a part of us.

She turned five months old today and I’m definitely feeling all the feels. Disaster struck the highways today (a bridge stuck open) and it took me twice as long as usual to get home. I only got to see my girl for about 45 minutes before she went down. But that time was so special. She ate and we snuggled. She played on a blanket on the floor while I ate. She showed off new tricks.

Fiona rolled over onto her tummy, something we’ve seen evidence of, but never got to watch her do, then she looked at us and grinned as if to say “Did you see me? Did you really see me?” Read more

How to do “the horse thing” without breaking the bank

How to do “the horse thing” without breaking the bank

My baby

I attended a training clinic recently where I learned a lot, but also saw people spending beaucoup bucks on training tools, tack, t-shirts and more (on top of the $50 entrance fee!). In fact, Wells Fargo was there to finance the purchase of roundpens, saddles, automatic waterers and more.

I got my tickets for free and brought my own snacks and proteins to eat in the car during breaks so I wouldn’t have to purchase expensive concession food. My only expenses were the gas to get there, dinner (split entrees with my mom), and a hotel room (30 minutes away because it was more affordable).

It got me to thinking about how it really is possible to do “the horse thing” frugally.

It’s true, I don’t have a $1,299 saddle. I’m sure they’re comfortable, durable and well built. And for someone who has thousands available in disposable income, it may not be a bad investment. But for the girl who brought her own food to the clinic? It’s a little ridiculous.

When I got my first horse at age 13, I bought a used Western saddle for $50. You know what? I still use it today — the only Western saddle I’ve ever bought (also, my English saddle, still in use today, was $30). Is it the best saddle ever made? No. Is it safe? Yes. Does it work? Yes. So no new saddle in my future.

When I was looking for a treat to spruce up my tack, I bought a pretty new saddle blanket for $10.

It is possible to keep a horse on a budget. I promise.

Arabian Horse

Board is the biggest part of just about every horse-owner’s expense. When my husband and I began looking for a house to buy, we knew that we wanted enough property to house my horse and cut out that expense. That said, we couldn’t afford a fancy farm or even 10 acres in the Virginia Beach area. But we did get a lovely 2.5 acres, zoned to house a single horse, with a tiny one-stall barn. Just enough to meet our needs. (We bought a goat to keep her company — low cost, low maintenance.)

But even boarding doesn’t have to be ridiculous. I worked out a deal with someone to work off part of my board cleaning stalls and feeding, even house-sitting when the owners went out of town in exchange for a cut in my rate. I even provided labor (call on your friends and family!) for major barn cleanings and hay deliveries to work off some of the cost. The family I boarded with were extremely kind to me and I hope my efforts and knowledge (I even did some training with them) was a benefit to them as well.

My horse, Chappy

Feed of course is going to be an expense. We source our hay locally from the grower himself (instead of purchasing through a middle-man tack/feed store), and we buy a cheaper mix grass instead of an expensive orchard or alfalfa. My horse gets plenty of nutrition from it and I’m able to give her more in the winter to help keep her warm and keep her gut active without worrying about her gaining weight. We even went to purchasing round bales because they’re cheaper than square bales. I also don’t worry about an expensive grain. My horse gets Original Safe Choice, which I would recommend for just about any horse, the exception perhaps being a senior horse who struggles to keep on weight. What my horse drops, the goat eats so we don’t even have to get goat feed unless we want to. Tractor Supply, Rural King and other supply stores often have sales (BOGO half off) or coupons ($2 off each bag) that I use to get a stock pile of grain at a cheaper price.

Chappy and Jane

Vet care is another biggie. I have cut the cost by taking measures to keep my horse as healthy as possible, like regular deworming (3x/year in Virginia) and keeping her outdoors as much as possible. I have also worked out a deal with a vet to purchase vaccines and administer them myself. Not all vets will do this, but I have a relationship and trust built between myself and my vet. Now my vet visits 1x/year to administer rabies and draw blood for her coggins. She also checks her teeth at this time.

The farrier, of course, is another regular expense. Every six weeks. But in the winter, horses’ hooves grow more slowly, so we stretch it to every eight weeks during that season. Every little bit helps.

Having my horse in our own backyard does involve some extra costs, but most are one-time costs that I will benefit from for years to come: fencing, gates, stall mats, buckets, stock tanks, etc. We were able to save some money by installing electricity to the barn ourselves (or rather, my dad — an engineer — installed it), and installing the wood and electric fences ourselves. There are some maintenance costs, but it is far lower than boarding.

Supplies is a big one that I spent lots of money on as a teenager (when I didn’t have to pay for feed myself!). Instead of expensive horse shampoo and conditioner, I get some from the dollar store. Aside from that, I have a small canister of Carona, a small bottle of BioShield, a bottle of fly spray (I do pay more for UltraShield, but use it less because it’s more effective — also, you can buy the concentrate and mix it yourself), a bit of hoof conditioner and maybe a bottle of thrush treatment. And I keep baby oil on hand for getting the tangles out of her mane.

Chappy girl

Tack is something that will require investment, but it doesn’t have to be a lot, and it doesn’t have to be often. I own two saddles, English and Western (purchased used for $30 and $50 respectively). I own 4 bridles: English, Western, training and bozal. Right now, I only ride in the bozal. I only have a few bits (when I needed something new for my horse, I would borrow friends’ bits to try them out before making a purchase). An English and a Western saddle pad (I do have a few inexpensive saddle blankets to change up the look or colors).

Being frugal requires a little more time, a little more effort, and definitely some forethought, but it is so worth it if it makes having a horse affordable.

Lunging Chappy
Chappy before she got all her adorable “flea bites” (freckles).
Too early?

Too early?

So I know it’s really a little too early to be getting into fall mode. But September does arrive on Monday, and it’s been cool enough to open the windows at night, and we are going camping next weekend, and I just got a new sweater, so I’m pretty much in fall mode at this point.

So I made myself some apple cinnamon oatmeal to go with my tea, and I’m making plans to hunt down a second red rocking chair from Cracker Barrel to match the first so we can sit and rock on the porch this fall. And I’m making lists of things I need to buy for our camping trip: charcoal, lighter fluid, hot chocolate (just the essentials, you can see).

It’s supposed to be back in the *90s this weekend, but I will not be deterred. I have requested Husband procure firewood in anticipation of the coming chill and I’m trying to figure out if I can afford a lovely pair of Muck Boots for the muddy season.

As I’ve been is house-remodel mode for months, I have been looking forward to fall, to slowing down, to enjoying owning a home in the country. This.

I guess I’d better get a move on refinishing those cabinets in the kitchen, and sealing the counter tops, because I can’t slow down until those are done. And I really, really want to whitewash the fireplace before we start using it. So here’s to buckling down and getting it done.

Refinishing cabinets

Working on Mornings

Working on Mornings

A few thoughts as I work on making more of each day… The Rise & Shine thing is going okay. Not great, but okay. When school starts back up next week traffic is going to get worse and I’m going to need to leave the house earlier. So, not fun. Also, Husband has become very good at convincing me to stay under the warm covers just “a few more minutes” which inevitably turns into 20 minutes with both of our alarms sounding every 4 or 5…Sigh.

Maybe I need to set my alarm for 5:00, that way we have some time together in the morning before getting up and facing the day. And I still need a lamp in the garage so I don’t trip down the stairs when I go out to feed.

The good news is that I have been more intentional about doing little things, like putting in a load of laundry in the morning, or cleaning up the bathroom while I wait for the tea kettle to whistle. I’ve noticed that those little things bring me so much peace, I look around and see progress instead of chaos.

Also, the cooler weather and open windows are refreshing. And I love hearing the sounds of morning in the barn — Chappy nickers, Jane bleats, the rooster crows and the hens cluck. It almost sounds like a real homestead. I also get to check for eggs now. They seem to be laying early afternoon, but I can still check in the mornings, just in case. (As I told Husband yesterday: I like looking for these little gifts, it’s like Christmas everyday!)

A few more thoughts:

“If you are a late sleeper, you’re best plan is to try and get up 10 minutes earlier than the rest and use that time to your advantage to reclaim YOUR mornings.” – The Abundant Mama

In other words, not everyone is a morning person, and THAT’S OKAY.

Also, a challenge to think about the things I need right now. The two biggest ones that come to mind are rest and exercise. That’s why last night after feeding I made a cup of tea and sat in my rocking chair on the porch with a good book. I needed it. And it’s why Husband and I took the pup on a walk Sunday afternoon. I needed it.

Evening porch sitting

And, a challenge to identify the difference between my daily intentions and weekend intentions:

Work Hard
Be Productive at Work
Maintain Home
Maintain Animals

Be Productive at Home
Make Progress on House
Steward Home and Belongings
Give Special Care to Animals

Focus on Husband

And, today’s challenge is to turn a morning ritual into a habit. I think, in this phase of life, my morning feeding is that ritual. I go outside, breathe fresh air, talk to the animals. I’m not sure how much I’ll like it once it gets cold, but right now it’s perfect. It gets me started in the morning. Maybe someday I’ll spend a few more minutes out there, grooming or just being with my girls. It’s good for me, I can feel it.

Rise & Shine

Rise & Shine

Rise and Shine?? Rise maybe, but not so much shining.

Alarms started going off at 4:45. No idea why, I think Husband was planning to get up early. So at least I was somewhat awake when my 5:30 alarm went off, but not enough to want to get out of bed. I finally untangled myself from the covers and various limbs (like, the dog’s) and rolled out of bed at 5:50. Not quite my 5:40 goal, but closer than yesterday.

I have just enough time in the mornings to slowly get things done, not much extra, but enough that I’m not rushing. I immediately go out to feed Chappy and Jane (Side note: I need a lamp in the garage. The overhead lights don’t like to turn on right away and it leaves me fumbling for my jacket and boots when I head out to feed before light). Then proceed to shower, dress, prepare for work, eat breakfast, pack my lunch (granted, Husband does the majority of lunch prep), and finish off my cup of tea before leaving for work. This morning, I even had time to start the dishwasher (granted, Husband mostly loaded it) and fill the humming bird feeder with fresh food. I have to say, it felt good just to have five minutes to do those two little things. How much more so if I can rise earlier?

This morning’s sunrise.

The topic from the Rise & Shine Project today is to talk about nighttime rituals. Routines, and more importantly, rhythms are incredibly important to me. All the more so since I struggled with insomnia in college. I’ve tried a lot of different habits to help me get to sleep, but the most effective has been having a job that takes a lot of my energy =). These days, I am dragging myself to bed and fall asleep within a half hour of turning the light out, often even sooner, which is nothing short of miraculous.

There are a few things I do regularly though, that help me wind down. At the end of the day, I love to have a cup of tea or a glass of wine and talk with Husband, or watch a bit of a movie, or do something sedentary that slows my body down. And I have a basic routine of self-care just before bed, like brushing my teeth, washing my face, and generally taking care of myself physically so I feel fresh and clean. I also use a little spritz of lavender on my pillow to freshen the scent, I curl up under blankets with a good book and read for a few minutes, and when I’m fighting sleep to keep reading, I remind myself that sleep is a gift, turn out the light and roll over.

There are other things I’d like to add to my routine though, like selecting my outfit for the follow day so I don’t have to do it in the haze of morning. Maybe some Scripture reading with Husband. I used to be in the habit of straightening the living room and putting all the dog toys away.

So maybe tonight I’ll add a little more to the routine…



A few notes from church Sunday spurred me to thinking it is time for a bit of change in my life…

When we create, we worship God. Imagination is the closest we get to mirroring God’s ability to create something out of nothing.

Create for His glory.

Don’t let others run your life and your schedule. Set aside time to dow hat God has called you to do. Don’t let technology and the pave of life control you.

God calls us each beyond our comfort zones.

Huperekperissou refers to going way beyond what you can imagine. It’s a super superlative, describing how God can do everything we ask, He can do everything we can imagine, and He can do wildly beyond what we can imagine we can imagine.

God lives beyond the space we call possible.

Take on a challenge that requires God’s amazing power, and then give the glory to Him.

The one thing that struck me in the midst of the sermon, and followed me throughout the day, was the book I’ve been working on (I use that phrase loosely, very loosely) for about six years. Most of that time has been spent NOT working on it. Because things got in the way. I worked diligently when I lived in Ohio, by myself, in a little tiny, sleepy community, with no internet access or TV or anything. Then I moved to Virginia. I started a new job, grad school, another new job, met Husband, got married, moved 5 times, bought a house. Life has been full. And I have not been writing.

We’re busy with home renovations, but really, I see this as a lull time in our life. (Crazy to think that with how busy we are!) Post-school. Pre-kids. Ideal for writing. I hope.

My most productive time of day is really mid-morning (9:00-1:00). However, I spend those hours at work. I’ve tried writing during my lunch break, but the fact is that my brain needs a rest then, so knitting is a better occupation for that time. That leaves me wondering, when?

So I’m evaluating. Calculating. Looking over every inch of my schedule. Finding time. Finding energy.

To that end, this is my current schedule:

5:30 am – alarm goes off
5:40 am – roll out of bed; brush teeth; feed horse and goat
6:00 am – try to wake up by taking a hot shower
6:30 am – eat breakfast; pack lunch; get ready for work
7:00 am – leave for work
8:00 am – 5:00 pm – work
6:00 pm – arrive home from work; change; feed dog, horse, goat and sugar gliders; unpack lunch bag etc.
6:45 pm – select one or two things from list: ride Chappy, clean house, laundry, clean barn, yard work, house projects, everything on never-ending to-do list
8:30 pm-ish – eat dinner; sit with Husband; watch part of a movie
9:30 pm – crash
10:00 pm – 5:00 am – sleep roughly 7 hours

It doesn’t leave much time for writing. Or anything else I want to do.

Weekends are different, but also full. Saturdays are spent in constant motion: riding, cleaning house, laundry, cleaning barn, yard work, house projects, everything on never-ending to-do list. I never get everything done. I just prioritize until I run out of time. Sundays are set aside for church and Husband time. We don’t do much planning ahead, but usually run an errand or two, go for a bike ride, take the pup to the park etc. We end the day on the couch with a movie. It’s intended to be restful though often active, laid back, and time spent together.

There are things that haven’t made it onto the schedule that I very much want to make time for. Writing; reading; yoga; baking; knitting; jogging.

I was doing really well at getting up at 5:40, when it was still light out. That’s what gets me each and every year. In the summer, no problem (okay, problems with grumbling and sleepy eyes, but I can do it), but fall? Winter? No way. Not happening. Darkness apparently immobilizes me in the winter.

But with our new house comes new habits. New phases are the easiest way to create new routines. Change is going to happen, take control of it, make it work for you. For me, the most effective has always been when I move. In this house, I will… or In this house, I will not…

So this is my year, my time to change, my opportunity to learn how to rise early even in the winter.

As part of that, I’m going to participate in the Rise & Shine Challenge for a few days. I’m a bit late getting in on it (and I rolled out of bed at 6:00 instead of 5:40 this morning — it always sabotages me when Husband has a day off and doesn’t get up with me).

Cup of hot tea with book and plaid on table on gray background

This morning’s challenge is to consider what your ideal morning would feel like, how it would flow, and what sounds you would want to hear…

An ideal morning would be gentle. I am not a morning person, I do not leap out of bed ready to greet the day. I need to ease into it. I think it’s why I don’t mind slipping on some boots and going out to the barn to feed first thing, in my pajamas. (At least while it’s warm I don’t mind.) I drink tea, slowly. I take a hot shower. All of these things are gentle, quiet, calm.

I’d like to feel like I have it together and I’m awake when I leave for work. I don’t want to rush. I don’t want to forget something. I should really pack my bag the night before. (And thank goodness for Husband who packs my lunch or I would likely starve.)

In some ways, I would like to do devotions, but I’m usually not quite coherent enough to remember anything I read that early. So I want to leave a little early and dive in when I get to the office and am more awake.

I might try yoga or jogging in the morning. As long as it’s gentle, and I can do it in my pajamas. Maybe. We’ll see.

The sound question is something I never really thought of. In my perfect life, it would be chilly enough to leave the windows open all night and I would wake up to the birds chirping. Otherwise, quiet is good. It’s calm, it’s gentle. Maybe a bit of serene background sounds, like they use in spas…



From Shauna Niequist recently…

There’s a certain amount of pressure for all of us, I think, to be endlessly productive, to create content around the clock, to say big things every day, if you’re a blogger, or every Sunday if you’re a preacher.

Let’s resist that. It’s not how nature works. It’s not how seasons work. There’s planting and reaping and harvesting, and there’s the practice of letting a field lay fallow for a while, allowing it to prepare again to produce. For the first time in a long time, I’m practicing silence, laying fallow, trusting that the world will keep spinning quite happily without quite so many words from me.

Right now, in my life, this is profound. Lay fallow? Silent? It feels foreign. But there has to be a way to incorporate this into my oh-so-full life of working, living, renovating and more. There just has to.



Sometimes my life feels a little overwhelming. We all get there, don’t we? Too many obligations, too many responsibilities. Too much going here and rushing there. Too long of a to-do list.

Lately, with the new house (which is a HUGE blessing!), I’ve been overwhelmed, stressed and tense.

But today, I had the chance to sit down with an amazing lady. Sandra is a doctor from Peru who spends her days working for the poor. The beautiful spirit she brought to the conversation was truly astonishing. The passion with which she spoke of impoverished, vulnerable children and mothers was inspiring. And the way she gives up her life every day for the good of others was more than humbling.

House renovations are nothing compared to abject poverty. And putting that into perspective is important.

A new era

A new era

Home. It means so many things in so many different ways. I think of Laura Ingalls Wilder, and all the varying homes she had and loved — in the Big Woods, along the prairie, the sod home etc. I think of Anne coming to Green Gables. I think of myself, roaming far and wide for the past decade, home an ever-evolving concept.

But now, I have a home. We have a home. We have a place to land. A place to put down roots. A place to connect to, invest in, and grow with us.

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve written anything, but during that hiatus we bought our very first house.

We have been actively searching for a home of our own for about two years now. Six months ago, we had to move into yet another temporary home. But we knew the Lord would bring the right place to us at the right time. We just had to watch and wait. And He did.


The house is exactly what we want, it just needs a bit of updating. And we are more than happy to give all the TLC it needs.

Two things contend for “best” or “favorite” with this place: The adorably small one-stall barn for Chappy and the giant brick fireplace right in the middle of the living room/dining room. I have great plans for both of these features.

For now, we consider the house a blank slate. We are working on updates to the kitchen that won’t cost much, but will provide an entirely new appeal to the smallest space in the house. New paint will refresh the entire interior. And a fence will make it possible to bring my baby to our own space.

Our space. I like that.