Monday, December 14, 2009

What Christmas is really all about

This past Sunday we celebrated Christmas with our "favorite" Karen family, and had a blast.  One of my coworkers, Beverly, and her husband, Bob, brought gifts for half of the family, and we brought gifts for the other half.  It was so much fun decorating the tree with ornaments that our friend Holli donated, opening presents, and then learning how to use the presents they received.  We are constantly laughing because we do a lot of pantamiming due to the language barrier.  They were most confused by the nightlight in the shape of a soccer ball (hard to explain the purpose of a night light to a family who lived the whole of their lives until a year ago without electricity).  Anyway, it was a lot of fun and we realized that Christmas is a time to remember those you love, and we love them!

Aaron & Ta Paw



Hae Blu Moo








Top row (l to r): Caroline, Aaron, Diane, Ta Paw, Pi Pi, Aye Aye, Beverly, Bob
Bottom row (l to r): Moo Blu Htoo, Moo Kae Blut, Hae Blu Moo, Moo Moo, Kai

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A new normal



I think we have found a bit of a routine after the craziness that has been the past couple of months.  We've had LOTS of parties and visitors because everyone is excited to meet Kai for the first time.  I am finishing up the semester this week, and then we'll both have a bit of a break until the spring semester gets started in mid-January.  Kai is amazing, and truly he must be the happiest baby in the world.  He is an absolute joy.  We are really excited to have some time off, and we're actually getting some work done around the house, which has been fantastic.  Life is good!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Our Adoption Story




We have been so blessed through the adoption of our 2 month old son Kai, and wanted to share these pictures and video of his incredible birth family.  Kai's birth family is Marshallese, and we have had the amazing opportunity to learn from his family about the culture and traditions of people from the Marshall Islands through food, crafts, and song.  We have been privileged to spend the past week in Hawaii getting to know his birth parents and older brother, and are committed to fostering Kai's relationship with his "first" family once we return to Texas.  Below are a few pictures from our time together this week, here are a couple of links to videos we shot of the farewell celebration on YouTube: 

1.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=okXU7Noow4A
2.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ls5W7y_JKlM
3.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qDvcQLZt5EI


This is a photo of our two families that became one with the adoption of Kai.  Taken in Honolulu in our hotel room just after we arrived in Hawaii.



At the fishmarket in Chinatown in downtown Honolulu selecting fish for the traditional Marshallese meal and celebration of Kai's adoption.




At the celebration party with auties, uncles and cousins.



Gifts from the Marshall Islands


Thursday, October 29, 2009

We found our missing piece!!


We are absolutely thrilled to announce the adoption of our son, Kai Lane Mitschke, who was born on August 15, 2009 and adopted on October 23, 2009. He is the answer to all of our prayers and is absolutely beautiful in every way. We are stuck in Hawaii until all of the paperwork goes through the court system and we are allowed to return to Texas with our baby, so in the meantime we are soaking up the sun and getting to know our precious baby boy.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Farm Updates

For those of you reading our blog's description that this blog is supposed to be about "musings about daily life on a small family farm," I want you to know that I do realize that many of my posting are not at all about the farm.  But, in blogs as in life, we live what we know, and our lives have been focused on working with the refugees we talk about in recent months. 

So, to give an update on farm happenings:

The Sheep:  Petey and Richie were able to retire this summer after 8 years of doing their manly duties.  We took them to a wonderful Texas vineyard and Bed and Breakfast in Athens, TX, where they will spend their retirement grazing between grapevines.  Tara Winery and Vineyard is literally postcard-esque.  Check it out at http://www.tarawinery.com/.  We purchased a new ram from our friends at Jager Acres in Savoy, TX.  He is a white 2 year old whose name is Shrek, and he is a sweetheart.

The Goats:  Nothing much new to report here.  We are still swimming in Weezy's goat milk, and we've continued to milk her twice a day since March.  We were going to dry her off in August to breed her again this fall, but decided not to because we are enjoying the milk so much.  Lenny and Carl are friendly as ever, though very mischevious.  They are constantly escaping from our latest fencing arrangements.

The Chickens:  Despite having increased the size of our flock over the spring and summer to about 30, we are still not gettting a whole lot of egg production.  We think it may be because we have 3 roosters, which is 2 too many, and they are wearing the "ladies" out.  We will address this problem shortly!  ;)  We have invested in our first piece of yard art--meet King Rooster, who guards the chickens from hawks, coyotes, and sometimes Bonnie.


The garden:  We have had TONS of rain lately, and are really happy that we tried a fall garden for the first time this year.  Everything has really taken off like crazy, and we're getting more production from most of the vegetables than we did in June.  This is a huge watermelon we picked yesterday.  It is called "moon & stars" and is an heirloom variety from Baker Creek.




Straight neck squash from the fall garden:



More to come later!

Monday, October 12, 2009

A trip to the State Fair

October in Texas means it's time for a visit to the world famous State Fair of Texas.  Footlong corny dogs, funnel cakes, candy apples, the Ferris Wheel, the sculpture carved from hundreds of pounds of butter...what's not to love?  While it's hard to choose a favorite part, I always look forward to the petting zoo most of all.  This, of course, irritates Aaron to no end.  He doesn't understand why I need to buy a $3.00 cup of feed to play with animals at the fair when we have our own "free" petting zoo at home.  Right...but what about the camel?  We don't have a camel, so it must be worth it.
Anyway, this year we took three of our favorite kids to the fair for the first time.  If you read our blog, you'll recognize them from other pics earlier this year.  We love them sooooo much.  So here are some pics filled with lots of "firsts":

On the way to the fair, stuck in traffic.  From left to right, Hay Blut Moo (3), Moo Blut Htoo (7), and Moo Kae Blut (8).  The anticipation is almost too much to handle!



Moo Kae Blut and Moo Blut Htoo coming down the slide of the Fun House.



Moo Moo (the kids' aunt and also a kid at heart) enjoys the Fun House slide.




Hay Blut Moo gets a ride on Aaron's shoulders.



One of the many highlights of the trip:  facepainting (also a first)!



The trip back home--could they be any more adorable?!!


Sunday, September 6, 2009

Bubbles!

We were invited to a "Thank you Jesus Party" this afternoon with the Karen refugees in Garland.  Not exactly sure what a party of this sort would entail, we nonetheless showed up enthusiastically and waited for the fun to begin.  While the adults were preparing the feast, we entertained the kids outside with a bunch of bubbles we picked up at the dollar store.  The bubbles were a huge hit, though all of us ended up a sticky mess.  Turns out a "Thank you Jesus Party" is a church service led by the Karen minister in an apartment packed with Karen refugees.  While we couldn't understand the words they were saying, the experience itself was incredibly spiritual, and we felt honored to be invited.  The meal that followed was absolutely phenomenal.  Sort of like a Karen version of Pho, the Vietnamese noodle soup, in a way.  Each person is presented with a bowl of noodles (like fettucini) that you then "doctor" with various toppings:  cilantro, lime, green onions, dried onions, peppers, and salt.  Then you douse it all with a big helping of coconut milk curry.  It was incredible and I wish I could eat it every day.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Crazy moth!

This HUGE moth was on one of the lilies that bloomed yesterday.  It was seriously enormous.  At first we thought it was a bird, but when we got closer, we could tell it was the mother of all moths.  It had a tongue that was twice as long as its body.  Too bad you can't see that in the picture.  This critter is truly the bohemoth of the insect world.  I am a little in awe and a lot grossed out.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Dallas Cowboys Stadium!



I am a HUGE football fan, and could not be more excited that football season will be upon us in less than one week (college games start this Saturday!!!).  We were extremely fortunate this weekend in that a wonderful colleague of mine who has season tickets to the Cowboys' games gave us two tickets for Saturday's preseason game.  While I would normally be excited to see the Cowboys play in person, this year has even more signficance because it was our first chance to see the inside of the huge new stadium in Arlington.  While the Cowboys' playing skills left something to be desired, the stadium did not disappoint.  It is really incredible.  The jumbo screen is seriously distracting it is so big.  Cool, though.  I am quite certain that I will never be able to afford to purchase tickets outright to attend another game, so I tried to soak it all in. 

Sunday, August 30, 2009

A beautiful day!

The weather today was absolutely incredible.  It is hard to believe it is still August.  While I am certain it won't last long, it was a nice taste of the coming Fall, and it was wonderful to spend the day outside on the farm and not melt in the heat for the first time in a while.  Sometimes when we have a day like today, it really puts everything in perspective and makes me appreciate the little things and the reasons why we chose to live where we do, doing the things that we do.  I thought I'd share a few snapshots of the "little things" that I appreciated about today.

A caterpillar eating our passion vine.  We've got hundreds of them, and they turn into the most beautiful orange butterflies.  Every time I see one I think about Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar.  Great book, by the way.  I thought everyone had read this book as a kid, until Aaron told me he had no idea what I was talking about. 
Here are the guineas, all grown up!  They are VERY noisy, just like everyone warned us.  I think they think they are chickens, because they seem to like hanging out with them and eating their food, rather than hunting for grasshoppers.  But Aaron seems to like them, so I guess they're here to stay.
A beautiful lily that bloomed this morning for the first time since we planted the bulbs two years ago.  It sure took a while, but the payoff isn't bad.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Christina goes to college



As most of you know, we very much enjoy working with Karen refugees who live in Dallas. I've posted about one of our dearest friends, Caroline, in the past. Caroline is a Karen refugee who has become a friend, cultural liaison, interpreter, and advisor over the course of the past three years. When her youngest daughter, Christina, graduated from high school in May of this year, we were so excited! Christina applied and was accepted to UTA, and last week we took on the role of her "additional" parents, shopping for school supplies, room decor, and textbooks to prep her for college. She's got a great place to live (thanks, Nada!) and a great bike for transportation (thanks, Beverly!) and just finished her first day of classes. We are thrilled for Christina, her family, and the entire Karen community as she begins this new journey in her life and we will be right beside her every step of the way!
Here is Christina posing on her new pink bedspread:

And here she is with her proud mom, Caroline:

Monday, August 3, 2009

Karen Refugees




This summer we've gotten very involved with the Karen refugee community in Dallas. We first found out about these refugees from Burma through our work with Agape clinic, and have since engaged in a good deal of outreach in getting to know the community and helping out where we can. The Karen are an ethnic group that has suffered tremendous persecution from the Burmese army, and those who are able to escape to Thailand usually spend years waiting in refugee camps along the Thai-Burma border to be granted asylum to the US. Several hundred have ended up in Dallas over the past few years. Most have very limited English skills, and are completely overwhelmed with the prospect of living in an apartment in the middle of Dallas and trying to find a job and cope with stressors that come with living in a new country.

One of the people we've been working with is PuLu, who is an incredible furniture craftsman. We've added a few pages to our website to promote his work--just go to our homepage--www.oneworldfarm.com and click on the link that says "Hand-Crafted Furniture." Please check it out and help us spread the word if you can. We also created a pdf brochure on the same page that can be printed and distributed if you'd like to help. He's a talented artist and really wants to be able to support his family doing what he loves to do--creating beautiful hand made furniture. We're trying to find ways to build up a customer base or to find stores that would sell his furniture on consignment, so if you have ideas, please let us know. We're also looking for a space that he could use to build larger pieces, as right now he's having to build the furniture in the living room of his family's one bedroom apartment--not an ideal situation!

Another family we've been working with consists of several generations living in an apartment in Garland (east of Dallas). The grandfather ("PuPu") was a farmer back in Burma, and for the past few months has been asking if he could grow vegetables here in Dallas. After a lot of asking and convincing, the apartment complex agreed to allow PuPu and his family to grow vegetables on an unused porton of land at the apartment complex. We loaded up soil, compost, shovels, and landscape timbers, and got to work. Here are some pictures of the inital garden work last Friday.

Some of the kids found a garden snake and were enthralled:







Helping to transplant the grass to another area of the complex:






Pupu and his son in law, Taw Paw, digging the garden bed:





After our hard work in the garden , we took some of the kids (and adults) to the circus. It was quite a challenge trying to explain what a "circus" was before we went--but everyone had a blast. Here are a few pics:









If you would like to help improve the Karen refugees' lives in America, there are lots of things to do! You can volunteer your time or donate money to help with the purchase of materials for the garden or for wood for PuLu's furniture. You can order furniture, or donate space for a makeshift workshop. You can donate seeds, shovels, soil, compost, etc. for the garden. You can provide transportation to take a refugee to see a health care provider, or donate a car to be used to transport several people to work. You could help find jobs, school clothes, and English classes. The possibilities are really limitless. Please let us know if you want to help--they (and we) need you!!!





Around Town

My friend, Carla, came to visit us last week and stayed for four days. Carla was my coworker and friend when we lived in Hawaii, and she had never been to visit Texas before. We wanted to give her a real Texas experience, and we had a great time. I thought I'd highlight a few of the things that we did in case they might come in handy for others:

Chuys--A trip to Texas would not be complete without LOTS of great Tex Mex food. Chuy's has a crazy, fun, atmosphere, great margaritas, and good food. www.chuys.com

South Dallas Cafe--Authentic Southern food served cafeteria style in a building that appears to be a former generic chain restaurant like Chili's, Applebee's, etc. The food is fabulous, the menu changes every day, and classics like yams, mac n cheese, collard greens, can't be beat. www.southdallascafe.com

West, TX--West is a little Czech town north of Waco on I-35. While it's a bit of a drive, it is worth the hassle to visit downtown West for authentic German kraut, sausage, and cabbage rolls. Don't forget to stop by one of the bakeries in town for kolaches--you can buy them by the dozen and freeze the ones you don't eat on the ride home! (www.west-tx.com)

Granbury, TX--Granbury is located southwest of Fort Worth, and has a picturesque town square with tons of shops and cute restaurants. There's an old jail that you can tour, which is pretty neat, and apparently Davy Crockett's wife is buried in the cemetary there, which is I guess something to be proud of. There's an opera house and a musical theater and a lake--plus my dad lives in Granbury--what more could you ask for? (www.granburytx.com)

Fort Worth Stockyards and rodeo--Embracing their cowboy heritage, Fort Worth puts on a rodeo every single Friday and Saturday night year round. Granted, you're not going to see the most incredibly talented ropers and riders at this rodeo, but it's still fun and not too expensive. (www.fortworthstockyards.com)

And with your rodeo ticket stub, you get free admission to Billy Bob's Texas, a humongous bar/honky tonk that has hosted every famous country star, from Willie Nelson to LeeAnn Rimes. (Note: I know little to nothing about country music, so these are the only two examples that I can think of right now). (www.billybobstexas.com)

and...we're back!

So sorry for the prolonged absence this summer. Right after my last blog post at the end of May, we learned we were matched with a birth mother who was due to have her baby at the end of June. To make a long story short, the match fell through, and we were devastated. It's taken us most of the summer to get over it, but we're officially back to normal and hopeful that we'll be matched again so and will be parents at some point in the near future.

Okay, now that that's done, what else have we been up to? Well, we've enjoyed visits from family and friends. My mom and Amanda, my sister, came to stay with us for a week at the beginning of July. We spent a lot of time here at home on the farm, doing farm things. We taught them how to milk Weezy, our nubian dairy goat, and then we made mozzarella and ricotta cheese out of the milk. We also made goat's milk yogurt, frozen yogurt, ice cream, and soap. Then we made homemade bread and homemade cinnamon rolls. Yum! It was a really nice visit, and we had fun showing them what life on the farm was like.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Guineas!






A couple of weeks ago, Aaron drove down to Rockdale, in central Texas, to give a presentation to some nurses at a rural hospital. While he was there, he stayed overnight in Giddings to visit his mom and she took him to a farm where they had guineas. He brought home 2 dozen guinea eggs and we put them in the incubator, doubtful that they would hatch after the 4 hour car ride back home. But, miraculously, we've had 5 little guinea chicks hatch so far. Guineas are pretty wild, and my understanding is that when they get bigger they will just roam around the farm, eating grasshoppers and other insects. They are also very noisy, which apparently makes them good watch "dogs." We'll see how it goes, but in the meantime they are super cute.



Goat Milk Soap Making Tutorial

For those of you who may be interested, I just posted a tutorial with photos I made about how to make goat's milk soap on the website: http://www.oneworldfarm.com/soapmakingtutorial
Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The llama fiasco

A couple of weeks ago we finally decided we had had enough of our "beloved" llamas. Roscoe wasn't so bad, but Otis, his younger brother, recently discovered that he could leap over our 6 feet tall electric fences and browse the neighbors' fields whenever he felt like it. We determined it was time that they needed to find a better home, so I placed an ad on Craigslist, offering them for free. The response I got was amazing! Within 20 minutes, I had over 15 people begging for the llamas. I have found that when you list something for free on Craigslist, no matter what it is, people want it. We had a similar experience with our old carpet--within minutes of listing it, my email was crashing from the number of responses.
Anyway, back to the llamas. The next step was to pen them up so that we could actually load them when some poor unwitting soul came to pick them up. Having some idea that this would be a difficult task, we started the process about 2 hours before the people were supposed to arrive with their trailer. The llamas would not be fooled by our enticements of feed. Once they caught a glimpse of the rope, they high tailed it out of the barn as quickly as they could. I will not belabor the details of the 2.5 hour chase around our 10 acre farm (yes, I did say 2.5 hours). Suffice it to say that we ended up catching Roscoe after about 45 minutes and spent the rest of the time trying to capture Otis as he literally ran circles around the property, leaping over every fence we have. Finally, when it seemed that he would soon die of a heatstroke, and we were sure we would follow shortly behind him, Aaron got the rope around his neck. At this point he was drooling nasty green stuff, screeching like a velociraptor out of Jurassic Park, and kicking as if he was having a seizure. It was ugly. I strapped the halter on his head and Aaron began dragging him to the pen. Just as he was about to reunite with Roscoe in the pen, he had a huge flipout and ended up knocking Aaron to the ground and slipping out of his halter.

I looked up to see Aaron struggling to his feet, raise his fists above his head in defiance, and scream, "I will chase you until you die"!! (Did I mention that this was not the happiest of days on One World Farm?) Then I noticed that Aaron had blood pouring down his face. Apparently the llama had knocked him into the tin on the side of the barn and he ended up slicing his head open in the process. It was very dramatic. I convinced Aaron that we all needed a cooling off period, and we headed to the E.R. to get 14 stitches for his head. We hooked up with some friends at Fuzzy's Tacos afterwards and drowned our llama troubles with a few margaritas.

Postlude: The next morning we called in reinforcements and ended lasso-ing the llama and tackling him so that there was no hope of escape. We loaded them up and sent them on their way and wished them the best. Good riddance!

Monday, May 4, 2009

More pics of Maddie on the farm

We had so much fun with our niece Madison this weekend. She came to stay with us Saturday and we were tasked with helping to create a scrapbook documenting all of the things that she can do to help protect the environment (recycling, growing a garden, composting, etc.). These are some of the cute photos we used for the scrapbook:


Carrot

Collard Greens


With a month old hen:

In Aaron's bee keeping outfit:
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Maddie milks a goat

This is a video of our 8 year old niece Madison milking Louise ("Weezie") this past weekend.
video

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Organic Gardening at the White House

I am so excited that Michelle Obama has decided to have White House vegetable garden. I am hopeful that this will translate into a broader discussion of food policy in the US, and at the very least, convince more people to think about where their food is coming from.

Here's the link to the NY Times article about the garden:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/20/dining/20garden.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=obama%20garden&st=cse

And on the Diane Rehm radio show this morning:

"First Lady Michelle Obama's vegetable garden at the White House and a new study on the health risks of eating beef and pork daily have inspired many to rethink what they're eating and whether it's healthy. A look at new efforts to put healthier food on our plates."

Check it out at:
http://wamu.org/programs/dr/

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Cute little Henry

Henry, our sweet little bottle baby lamb, was adopted yesterday by a great new family. I was just a little sad to see him go, because I had gotten quite attached to the little guy. But I know he will love his new home! Here are some pics of Henry and Aaron working in the raised beds in the garden together over the weekend. He is such a good helper!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

More new babies!

Spring has officially launched itself here on the farm. This week we dropped off Ramilton and Mittens, the first two lambs of the season, at their new home in Houston, and when we got back we had three more lambs and a baby donkey! We are just bursting at the seams with cuteness. This is Liza:


And this is a video of Henry, a bottle-baby lamb that is the sweetest little guy ever:

video

You can see more pics of Liza and Henry, and also Julia and Bea, the other new lambs, on our website at www.oneworldfarm.com/forsale

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Another Texas thing...



The above photo is of a sign that we found posted on the ice cooler in front of our local corner store in Venus the other evening.

These are the musings that come to mind:
1) Do they really make shower curtains that look like Texas flags?
2) Related to #1, is having a shower curtain made out of a flag really a good idea?
3) It is interesting to note that a "used" Texas flag shower curtain would be acceptable to the purchaser. This is important because I would imagine that most individuals do not have spare Texas flag shower curtains still in their new packaging, just waiting for the right day to hang them.
4) Also interesting to ponder is the concept that in my experience, most individuals do not hang on to their used shower curtains. Once they're done, they're done. So I am guessing that in order to have a used Texas flag shower curtain to sell, you'd probably still have it hanging in your own bathroom. Seems like the price would have to be right to leave you shower curtain-less.
5) I appreciate the care that the designer has put into creating the sign: the "cute" faces made out of the "o's" in LOOKING, the use of parentheses to highlinght the item in question, and the underlining of the phrase "used o.k."
6) Finally, do you really suppose that the best place to advertise your desire for a used Texas flag shower curtain is taped to the side of the ice cooler outside the corner store in a town of 2,000 people?

Rich, simply rich, my friends.
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