What a month! I can't believe it's been a whole month already. Time is a weird thing like that. One moment it's May and next thing you know it's July! June brought an extremely busy schedule to the family. With the end of the school year, the beginning of lots of outdoor summer fun, grilling season, lotion production and state inspection, a birthday, Father's Day, some internet issues, babies going to their forever homes, a new toy for the farm and, of course, our usual family silliness! Phew! That's a lot!!! So, let's get started....
Grilling & Pool Season -
After all the rain we got in May, June finally brought some sunshine and warm temperatures. With the arrival of warmer weather, the family tends to spend a ton of time out by the pool... and what happens when you swim a lot? Well, we get hungry. So, we also grill A LOT! It wouldn't be summer at the farm without Swanky Sauce and the grill. Tyler has always LOVED grilling and cooking and this season has been no exception. He LOVES grilling so he's usually the one cooking up some Swanky goodness in between jumps in the pool.
It's amazing how much the kids, especially the "littles", change from year to year. Last year was the first year the littles could go into the pool without Aaron or I right there with them. Of course, they had their life jackets on and they really only stayed in the shallow end unless we were in with them. But, this year, they went right in without hesitation and swim all around the pool. It wasn't more than a couple days into the pool season that Quinn and Livie got brave enough (with Daddy being right there to help) to actually jump into the shallow end of the pool from the edge. In precious year, they both were way too nervous to try. They would "jump" in while being on the second or third step of the stairs which would prevent them from going under the water completely.
Just one day after Daddy's jumping lesson, Quinn got ultra brave and took his first big jump off the diving board. Not to be out done, Livie went right behind him. I feel like it was just yesterday that they were floating around in their little sun shaded floaties with so much sunscreen on their little faces it couldn't absorb all the way into their skin.
How are they big enough to jump off the diving board??? The next step is to get them comfortable enough to swim in the shallow end without their life jackets. I'm confident that'll happen by the end of the summer. These kids have no fear!
The pups are also really enjoying all the time we spend out at the pool. At 12 years old now, Old man Luke has really slowed down this year. He has always enjoyed swimming. Whether in our pond, the pool, the lake down the road, the goat's water trough, or even our Koi Pond lol! As a young man, he used to chase the kids around the pool and jump in right behind them as they jumped off the diving board. Now, as a geriatric pup, he lays out in the sun until he gets too hot and then goes down the stairs for a quick dip (and I mean, a literal dip... no swimming. Just dips in up to the top of his back) before going back to lay in the sun. It gives me quite a chuckle but it's also sad to see him actually acting his age.
Hazel, on the other hand, wants nothing to do with the water. She doesn't even like going outside to pee if it's raining. So, she hangs out on the couches and will lay out in the sun or gardens only getting up for a drink of water. But she's not even daring enough to go close to the edge of the pool just in the event someone may splash her.
And then there's Stella. We're not sure if she enjoys the pool yet. She's giving us mixed signals. On one hand, she loves splashing through the muddy puddles out by the barn after a good rain storm. But, when we put her in the big pool, she paddles her short, little legs so fast and can't get out of the pool fast enough. So, I had the great idea of getting her a small kiddie pool thinking it was small like a puddle and could be great for her to cool off in... WRONG! She wasn't an immediate fan. She doesn't mind drinking from it. I'm hopeful she'll grow to love it as she likes hoping in and out of the kids' water sinks out in the driveway. But look who does love the little kiddie pool LOL Oh Luke!!!!
Old man Luke no longers has to worry about those pesky stairs into the pool any longer. Now he can just wade in the kiddie pool AND get a drink at the same time.
The human kids also love it as it gets pretty warm after sitting out in the hot sun all day. They end up using it as a "hot tub". They'll jump into the pool and then all "warm up in the hot tub". And yes, I mean all at once (minus Jake) Yup, with or without a camera on them, they are always this silly.
The Month of Internet Issues...
You know, when you run a Live YouTube channel, stable internet is pretty important. Our internet issues all started while we were building our new hay building behind the goat barn. We had our friends, Rob and Jenna, come over to help out and while the guys were staking the building into the ground, Rob managed to slice right through our cable/internet wire. What are the odds you say??? Well, on this farm. There's a 100% chance of a complication during any given project. I'm not being negative... just speaking from 10+ years of experience. Nothing ever goes as planned.
Since we've gotten the new cable laid from the pole at the road, to our house, things just haven't been the same. The internet goes down for absolutely no reason. No storms, no wind, it just goes down. So, we're trying to work with the cable company to figure out what's going on. But that's like pulling teeth without novocaine. What . A . Pain .
Meanwhile, Stella's over there like...........
After all the trouble of building the hay building, we finally put it to the test. A few weeks later we loaded the hay barn with a load of 8, 750lb square bales of hay. So far, the building is working great for us! It's easy to get the hay in and out for the girls (and boys) and it's leaving all that extra room in the goat barn to store more "stuff".
The End of Another School Year!
When you have 4 school aged children, you pray to the school gods to space out the end-of-school-year events and NOT have them all land on the same day! Well, those prayers must have gotten lost in customs this year as everything... and I mean everything, landed on the same day this year.
I should just preface, our kids attend 2 different school districts, one of which is 45 minutes away from our house. Both Quinn and Tyler attend that school, while Jake and Liv attend our town's school. I guess I'll go into more detail about that since it probably doesn't make much sense to you.
*** Small detour ahead ***
So, our town school is very small and doesn't really have a large budget for staffing and enrichment type programs. In a day and age where technology is so prevalent, how is it that a school doesn't use it as a huge teaching tool? We found our town school to be very behind the times to the point where we felt our kids' education would be far inferior to their peers in more populated towns. When Jake was in his first 2 weeks of 4th grade, he was having issues with bullying in our town school and the administration (at the time... the admin now is amazing) We had been having issues with this for quite some time, not just the first 2 weeks of 4th grade. But it was during that time that we had had enough. We took Jake and Tyler out of the school without a plan on where to send them instead. We considered homeschooling but, I knew I didn't have the talent nor the patience for that. Plus, our kids 2 older boys are dyslexic and require special education.... Definitely not qualified to handle that myself. Not to mention, we still had the farm to tend. I was so overwhelmed at the thought of their education being solely my responsiblity.
I remembered back to a conversation a friend of ours and I had had, years ago, about how Salem holds a few spots for their kids to attend in a Magnet School down in New London, CT. We didn't know how that worked but figured we would look into it more.
Aaron got on the computer, made some phone calls and set up 2 school tours. One for the Arts Magnet School and another for the STEM Magnet school. We toured the Arts School first and it was great. There was so much more technology than Salem. The kids seemed to like it as well. Later that day, we toured the STEM Magnet School. Walking into the school for the first time felt like home. The school is amazing. There are so many communities partners that offer 1.5hours/day of enrichment, tablets, computers, robots, programing, but what stood out the most was the friendly and welcoming staff. To this day, the staff is what makes their school so special. They treat our kids like their own. They comfort our kids when they're having a bad day, they celebrate with them during their good days and they challenge them to be better students and humans. I, honestly, wish this school went through high school.
So, clearly, we chose the STEM Magnet School :-) The problem is, it only goes from K-5. So that's why Livie goes to Salem for PK and Jake for 7th. Jake had gone to the STEM Magnet Middle School in 6th grade but, like I was saying about how awesome the staff is in the Elementary school... It is quite the opposite in the Middle School. (In fact, they just recently ended up on the news for quite the scandal which makes me incredibly relieved we took Jake out of that school before 6th grade was over) Anyway... intense bullying started back up there... both physically and emotionally. We took Jake out of 6th grade early as the school sadly showed they couldn't guarantee his safety while there. He will stay in Salem next year and then has a lot of options when it comes to High School.
So, that's why our school schedule can get overwhelming...
*** End of Detour ***
The day started out with Tyler's end-of-year 4th grade Town Hall Meeting in NL. When schedules get crazy, Aaron and I tend to divide-and-conquer. After getting the middle kids on the bus to NL, Aaron headed to the barn to start AM chores while I got Liv ready for her big day at Preschool and Jake ready for his day. After chores, we drove down to Tyler's Town Hall Meeting where he received an award and we got to see him perform a music concert. Then we rushed back up to Salem for Liv's PK Music Concert.
I have always looked forward to these PK concerts. The teachers do such an amazing job teaching the kiddos the songs and making props and choreographing dances along to the songs. It's really something! Liv's music teacher let us know she had been working particularly hard towards this concert and that she would actually be the announcer for each song. Boy, we were really excited to see that! The month prior, Livie had told her Meme about the concert and we arranged our schedules to make sure Meme could attend this year. She drove all the way from upstate New York that morning just to see Liv sing.
Now, I will say... in previous concerts, Liv is known to, what I like to call, "angry sing". She sings with a lot of facial movements, a furrowed brow and so loud that she can be heard from way down the hall. But, she has the time of her life when she sings. This concert was no different. She definitely has her favorite songs, but of all the kids, Liv is the one everyone can hear singing. She did an awesome job! I will miss these preschool concerts. We've had at least one kiddo in PK for the last 7 years. It'll be weird to not be a part of that program anymore.
After the concert, the kiddos all head back to the classroom with the parents and teachers, for an ice cream social. We enjoyed some yumminess before quickly heading home for Jake's bus to pick him up for his program he does every day for his mental health.
A few moments later, we were back in the truck heading back down to NL for Quinn's Kindergarten Graduation/Town Hall Meeting! What?!?!? It was a mad house. All the parents, grandparents, Aunties, Uncles, neighbors, neighbor's friends were at this graduation. I had never seen so many people in the Gym before. And were seriously under prepared. I didn't know we were supposed to bring graduation balloons and flowers? We found some seats and waited for the event to start.
As all the Graduates walked in, I couldn't find Quinn. There are only 100 kids in his class so finding him shouldn't be too hard. I laughed so hard as Quinn was the very last kid to walk into the Gym and was sitting as far away from our seats and humanly possible. Through all the balloons, we managed to finally make eye contact with him and it put a huge smile on all our faces.
Quinn received an award during the Town Hall Meeting part of graduation and then his "diploma". This has been such a wonderful year of learning and growing for Quinny. He had the best, most nurturing Kindergarten teacher. She always texted me on days Quinn was home sick wishing him well and sending me cute pictures of Quinn doing an activity at school. And she made his birthday so special this year. She was just so wonderful. We are crossing our fingers and toes that Livie Bug gets her for Kindergarten this year... oh please, oh please, oh please!!!!!
The Babies Start Going Home!
A common question we get from YouTubers is, "How do you handle your emotions when the baby goats leave for their new homes?" Well, honestly, it never gets easy. If the day ever comes that it does get easy, then I think we shouldn't be breeding goats anymore as I can't see how our hearts would be in the right place. We love and care about these babies before they're even born. We plan for the babies, we select their mothers and fathers with purpose. We nurture and care for the moms so they have the healthiest pregnancies and safest deliveries as possible. I worry about them; I lose sleep over them; our whole lives revolve around them before they're even born. So, yes, it's hard when they leave the farm. At the same time, we are very selective about who they go to live with. When you take just as much time finding them the right owners as you have in the breeding and care process, it helps the transition process. It still doesn't make it easy though. I spend some private moments crying and praying that I'm making the right decision for them to have the best life as possible. I won't send them to a home I don't think would give them anything less than what I would.
So, June 15th came and 5 of the babies went to their new homes. First up, Fiona and Shrek. These twins are going to be so loved by their new owners. Their new family are actually past customers who have 4 of our other babies from 3 years ago and we've stayed in contact and become close over the years. They are the sweetest people who somehow manage to spoil their animals more than me!!! I have since heard from Shrek and Fiona's momma and daddy and they have settled right in to their new homes and their new goat herd.
Just an hour later, Bear, Uno and Apple's new family came to pick them up. Their new human sisters just couldn't contain their excitement for the babies coming home. Once home, they immediately found trouble. Uno figured out how to jump over their stall door and roam their backyard. They are keeping their new family on their toes but are doing very well. They even get field trips to the neighbor's hay field for extra yummy time!!!
Their human sisters are loving their new farm lives. And spend every waking moment with their goats and chickens.
Take A Hike!
When we aren't on the farm, we really love going on hikes as a family. This past month we went on 3 hikes. For our first hike of the summer season, we went to one of our favorite places. Since it's not a true "hike" in the woods, (more of a walking trail) we decided to take Stella with us. Well, we knew French Bulldogs weren't known to be active pups with the stamina to exercise very long, but we weren't expecting her to peter out before losing sight of the car lol. So, I ended up having to carry Stella most of the way which made for an interesting experience.
Anyway, back to the "hike". This walk was taken on the Airline Trail, starting in Colchester, CT. It's an old railway that was converted to walking/biking/horse trails many, many years ago. It extends throughout all of Eastern CT. We walked a small portion that crosses the local Salmon River. We took a side trail down to the river for the kiddos and pup to splash around in. The kids enjoyed throwing rocks, looking for fish while Stella chased dragonflies and splashed in the river. Honestly, I could have stayed at the river all day. Being there reminds me of the days spent rock walking throughout the creek in the woods as a kid. But, Mr. Aaron likes to keep moving, so back to the car we went (carrying Stella most of the way lol)
The second hike we went on was supposed to be up at one of the places I used to hike to when I was a teenager. However, it was rainy that morning and the clouds just never cleared out enough to make the drive worth it. It was one of those afternoons where it was done raining, but the clouds never cleared and it was still misty, damp and miserable. But Uncle Kevin had the day off from work and hiking is what we all wanted to do and the weather wasn't going to stop us! So, we decided to stay closer to home and go on a trail that we've done many times before at Devil's Hopyard in East Haddam, CT. Unfortunately, it was so wet and slick still, that we opted to stay on a flatter trail down by the river rather than hiking to the top of the mountain.
This state park has a beautiful waterfall that did not disappoint that day. Since we had had so much rain in the area, the falls were exceptionally loud and fast.
The last hike we took in the month of June, was for our Birthday Girl's 5th Birthday which leads me into the next section of this Newsletter...
Livie Turns "A Whole Hand" Old!
Each year, we ask the kids what they want to do on their birthdays and what they want for their birthday dinner. Livie had started planning her birthday sometime after kidding season. I remember her asking "Alexa, how many days until my birthday?" and I believe the answer was around 60 when she first started counting down.
She was very consistent with her birthday plan. She wanted to go for a hike and swim in the pool on her birthday. The dinner options had changed a few times but the days' activities were set in stone!
Thankfully the weather was beautiful and we were able to go on a nice hike. We went to her favorite place. It's a nice scenic hike along the Salmon River in East Hampton, CT. At the end of this particular trail, it opens up to a stony beach along a wide opening of the river where the kids like to have a snack and skip rocks. The whole hike is about 3 miles and this little diva can "do it all by myself!"
Earlier in the day, Liv decided she wanted Chicken and Broccoli Pizza for her birthday dinner. After her hike, we went to the local pizzeria where she quickly changed her mind and went all out and ordered the Mac & Cheese Pizza. I didn't even know there was such a thing! Talk about carbs overload. She took one bite of the Mac & Cheese pizza before going back to old faithful (Plain Cheese) We finished up this part of her day and then hit up the bakery for her to pick out birthday cupcake.
Angelo's bakery is a family owned and operated bakery that used to be run out of their house (unfortunately, too conveniently located to our old house in Colchester). They have since outgrown their home business and have upgraded to a store-front in town. But they still have the same amazing cupcakes and Italian pastries. We have a family tradition of bringing the birthday kid to Angelo's to pick out one of their massive cupcakes for their birthday dessert. Liv picked out a Red Velvet cupcake and we sang Happy Birthday to her later that evening after a swim in the pool.
Earlier in the week, we threw a big birthday bash for Livie and invited some friends from Preschool as well as family and family friends. Liv wanted a Mermaid Themed party so, of course, momma went all out. There was a Mermaid Tail Balloon Arch, Mermaid themed snacks including driftwood (pretzel sticks), Crunchy Shells (Scoop Tostidos) and so much more!
The pool was decorated in beach balls and Mermaid floaties. And the Mermaid Birthday Weather Gods cleared the 3 day long rain storm out just hours before the birthday pool party began!
One the kid's favorite parts of the party was the Mermaid themed Candy Bar. Oddly enough, it was the parent's least favorite part of the party LOL #SorryNOTSorry The candy bar was filled of super fun things like Seaweed (green twizzler straws), Coconuts (Whoopers), Life rings (gummy life savers), Pirate's Booty (chocolate coins and hershey nuggets), Frogs (gummy Frogs), Fish (swedish fish) and so much more. And just in case that wasn't enough sugar, we also served cake, cupcakes and Mermaid Juice.
All the kiddos had an awesome time. Liv was so happy to have her friends over and played until they just couldn't play anymore. It'll be a birthday to remember, for sure!!!
Summer on the Farm = Lots and Lots of FUN
I would say one of the hardest parts about running a family farm and having a family is... having your kids coming home from school asking, "why don't we go on vacations like all my friends at school?" And the answer is, because we own a farm and who will take care of all the animals? We don't have people who can come to our house twice a day to milk, grain the goats and rabbits, throw hay, take the dogs out, fill countless water bowls/buckets, collect eggs, fill feeders, etc. for a WEEK?!?! There's just too much work to do day in and day out. Not to mention, will that person recognize the subtle changes in an animal if it should fall ill while we're gone. And, to be completely honest... It's just too much for me and Aaron to worry about while gone. There's no way I, personally, could enjoy myself as I'd be completely full of worry the whole time. Trust me, we've tried and we've actually come home a few days early because it was all just too much. And this was when the farm only had 4 goats, a few dozen chickens and far less day-to-day responsibility. We have found over the years, that no one will take care of your animals and maintaining the farm as good as you do. I hope, as the kids grow into adults, that they recognize why vacations weren't part of their childhood and appreciate what they had instead.
We try to remind our kids of all things they do have here on the farm that other kids may not. Instead of going on elaborate vacations, we work hard and bring the vacation to the farm. One that can be experienced all year long. We have a dirt bike, a beautiful pool, Billy (our UTV) and our newest "toy" The Green Machine! Not to mention, all the fun of having the animals... milking goats, playing with them, the puppers, the lawn mower (which everyone fights over to use), ... countless ways to have fun... I mean, just look at all the smiles we have without the stress and financial worry of a vacation...
Let's Get Down to "Business"
Lotion and Swanky Sauce is doing awesome! We thank everyone who has placed orders and really hope ya'll are enjoying your purchase. We have a "newish" section of our website where you can now leave reviews for others thinking about ordering. If you've made a purchase, please let others know what you think. It's always helpful to hear from real customers. And keep an eye out for some updates. We have a new Men's Collection being released very soon as well as the Lotion of the Month Club. Watch the website for more details!
This month did bring an interesting turn of events in the lotion world. While we've been producing lotion on a small scale now for a few years, it wasn't until this year that we got on a competitor's radar. This fellow goat farmer saw our instagram photos of lotion production and Social Media marketing and sent an interesting private message, basically educating/warning us to make sure we have our cosmetics manufacturing license before we get reported to the FDA. Well, I had NO idea what the heck that even was and I definitely didn't want to get a fine for not having it or worse... so Aaron and I spent a lot of sleepless nights doing research on exactly what the laws were, what we needed to do to get our license, etc. We basically stopped marketing and producing lotion for several weeks while we filed our paperwork with the state and scheduled an inspection date. We fine tuned the lotion room (which is in the walk-out basement of our house... it actually has served many purposes over the years including being the hatch room/farm store when we were focused heavily on chicken breeding) Anyways, I digress...
Our inspection was schedule for last week and things went really well. The inspector was very kind, helpful and the process was extremely educational. We are free to continue producing lotion and was complimented on our thoroughness. We have some FDA procedural charts and write-ups that we need to add to our "binder" before we can officially get our license but, thankfully, we are allowed to produce, sell and advertise our lotion in the meantime. PHEW!
So, on that note... we wrap up July's Newsletter. June was so busy but also so much fun! We look forward to the rest of summer and hope it doesn't get too beastly hot.