We are babysitting this bottle-raised calf. The goats are terrified of him, but Greyden now wants his own cow!
How much pesto do you think we made with this basil? Hint: it’s A LOT.

All or Nothing

Grandma and Poppy are here for a visit.  They’re a great help to us when they’re here.  This week, Grandma has been helping me a lot with the garden.

Today we harvested yellow beans, tomatoes, celery, onions, carrots, beets, peppers, green cabbage, red cabbage, brussels sprouts, watermelon, pumpkin, and blackberries.  While we were working together we were talking about (surprise)… food.

All In Gardening Harvest

Grandma said that the recommendations for what is “good for you” food always changes.  She used the example that for years she was told that eggs and butter were “bad”, but now they are supposedly good for you again.

I shared my belief that it’s not only about the individual food, but how it was raised or grown that makes a huge difference.  I believe that animals should be raised on grass with fresh air and clean water.  Plants should be grown in living soil that has not been treated with pesticides or herbicides.

Grandma then made this comment – “Everything should be done in moderation.”

While I was snapping the ends off of green beans, I thought about that.

It’s an interesting statement, and I can understand why she said it and that sometimes it should be applied. And yet, I found myself thinking about how in my life, I often do quite the opposite.

Truth be told, I’m more more of an “all or nothing” kind of girl and tend to tackle life with a “Go big or go home” mentality.

Here are a few examples.

Goat Milk Stuff. When I first started making goat milk soap, I had another soapmaker who had been selling her soap for roughly 7 years say to me, “You can not support your family making soap.” I thought about it for approximately 30 seconds and said, “Watch me!”

Ok, that sounds a bit arrogant now, but I had thrown myself into Goat Milk Stuff and was committed to making it a success.  I knew that with God’s blessings, I could do it.  I knew I could grow Goat Milk Stuff into a viable business that would support my family.  Just because another soapmaker couldn’t (or hadn’t) done it, that didn’t mean that I couldn’t do it.

So we went all in.  The first full year, we attended 30 craft shows.  The second year we attended 50.  It was the main focus for the family.  But that hard work paid off, and Goat Milk Stuff was successfully launched and does in fact support our whole family.

Early Days of Goat Milk Stuff

Making babies.  Even as a teenager, I knew I wanted a large family.  I also knew I wanted the children to be close together in age.  And so I had eight children in ten years.  And then I was done. Those ten years of either being pregnant or nursing (or both) was definitely and “all in” time in my life.

And after Jade was born, I knew I was done and I moved on to the next stage of my life.  I knew myself well enough to know that I no longer had the energy to both raise my children and continue having children.  The “all in” phase was over.

Do I miss having babies?  Sometimes.  But I figure it will just make more excited to be a grandmother some day.

Gardening.  I am definitely all in when it comes to my garden.  I grow so much food it’s kinda scary.  And it takes a huge amount of my time and my children’s time.  But to me it is worth it!

I can’t put a value on the health of my family.  There are so many things that affect their lives that I can’t control.  I want to make sure I do the best possible for them when it comes to things (like eating healthy food) that I can control.  And nothing makes me happier than to watch my children eating fresh veggies directly out of the garden.

But during gardening season, I am definitely all in.  I prep. I plant. I weed. I harvest. I cut. I chop. I cook. I can. I freeze. I ferment.  It takes massive amounts of my time.  But it makes me happy and it relaxes me.  I love having my hands in the dirt and being outside.

I’m even planning yet another garden expansion at the end of this season – I’m so excited!  I’m definitely still “all in” when it comes to my garden.

Organic Gardening at Goat Milk Stuff

Budgeting and paying off debt. I can tend to be a bit of a stickler when it comes to spending money.  I am incredibly frugal on items that don’t have a payback value.

I don’t mind spending hundreds of dollars putting in a new raised garden bed because it saves me time in weeding and produces healthy food.  I also don’t mind buying energy efficient appliances that cost more because they will save money in utilities throughout their life.

But I hate spending hundreds of dollars just to heat and cool our home.  I drive Jim crazy because I’m always changing the thermostat (it’s on a program) to save money on heating and/or cooling.

I use spreadsheets and Quicken and Personal Capital to track every penny we spend for both the business and the family.  Jim, the children, and the employees all know they will be “in trouble” if they don’t submit a receipt so I know exactly what a credit card charge was spent on.  I can tell you over years how our spending has fluctuated.

The reason I am “all in” when it comes to budgeting and tracking expenses is because I hate debt.  Really, really hate it.

Every penny that I save is then spent on paying down debt so that we can once again be completely, 100% debt-free.  I don’t think there is any such thing as debt in moderation.  I want all of our debt completely gone and am “all in” on making it happen.

Those are just a few examples of how I tend to not live my life in moderation.

I do have to point out that when I say I’m an “all or nothing” kind of girl, I am not talking about being a perfectionist.  I am not a perfectionist at all (as Jim will definitely confirm) and I believe that perfectionism in general is rather unhealthy.

But I think you can “go big or go home” with an 80/20 Principle* mentality instead of a perfectionist mentality and there are a lot of benefits to living like this.

  1. You learn a lot.  When you get excited about something and give it a lot of your time and attention, you can’t help but learn.  And learning is fun!
  2. You accomplish a lot.  When you are “all in”, it is much easier to make something happen and produce results.  It’s easy to be productive when you’re passionate about what you’re working on.
  3. You’re never bored.  I find it very difficult to be bored.  There is always something to focus on, work on, or learn about and it is often quite exciting.

But you do need to be careful not to let the perfectionist in you take over.  If you are an “all in perfectionist” it can lead to the following troubles.

  1. You can’t relax.  If you’re being a perfectionist, there is always more to do to get things “just right”.  That makes it difficult to relax or “turn your brain off” so you can sleep.
  2. You get overly stressed.  Perfectionism produces stress no matter how well you handle it.
  3. You don’t enjoy what you’re doing. If whatever you’re working on needs to be perfect, it’s difficult to enjoy the work and what you’ve accomplished.

So yep, I’m definitely not an “everything in moderation” girl.  I live life on full-throttle and throw myself “all in” to my passions with intensity.

Is it exhausting?  Sometimes.  But when I get exhausted, then I go all-in on rest and relaxation.

The intensity with which I live my life may seem exhausting to others, but it works for me.

If you still believe in moderation, I would remind you of the words of Oscar Wilde – “Everything in moderation, including moderation.”

What about you?  Do you live your life in moderation?  Or do you tend to go big or go home?




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Handling Frustrations

Anyone who has ever owned livestock knows that a lot of time and decision making is spent on hay.  I know that sounds silly.  After all, hay is just dried grass.  How hard can that be?

I’m here to tell you it is in fact very difficult.  Imagine having to go food shopping for all your winter food in a 3-5 day time period.  That will give you a glimpse of what it is like to get hay for an entire herd of dairy goats.

Square Bales on a Hay Wagon

You have to answers questions such as – How much hay? What kind of hay? What size bale of hay? Where will I store it?  How will I keep it?  Is it moldy?  Does it have poisonous weeds in it? When will the grass start growing in the spring?

And those are only if you’re buying the hay.

If you’re trying to make your own hay, then you’ve got to deal with even more questions such as – Do I have the right equipment to bale the hay?  Is my equipment going to break? How is the fertility of my soil? Is the grass at the proper stage to be cut?  And most importantly, what is the weather?

Remember the old saying, “Make hay while the sun shines”?

You have no idea how important that is unless you’ve actually dealt with baling hay.  During hay season, all eyes are on the weather and the calendar because hay takes all your time over several days so you need a stretch of no rain that correlates to a stretch where you can spend all your time on the hay.

In my busy life, that’s not an easy combination to find.  And if you can’t find it, your grasses can go past the peak time and start to lose nutrition, which impacts the health of your animals.

Late last week, the hay field looked ready to be baled and the weather was forecasted to have 7 sunny days in a row, so the decision was made to cut the hay on Sunday.

Freshly Cut Hay

Baling hay involves all these steps:

  1. Mow the field
  2. Ted the cut grass (this turns it over and helps it dry faster)
  3. Rake the dried grass into rows
  4. Bale the hay
  5. Store the hay

Seems pretty straight forward, right?


You have to remember that you can’t work with hay at all when there is dew on it.  The hay has to be completely dry.  If it is very humid out, it can take several days for the hay to dry.  You can use a tedder to “fluff” the hay up and get the bottom stuff to the top so it dries faster.  But every pass over the field takes more time and more fuel so that the cost of your hay keeps rising.

But you do it if you have to, because the worst thing you can do is bale or store wet hay.  Wet hay bales can compost and generate enough heat to start a fire and burn down your entire barn–with all your animals in it.

That would be bad. Very, very bad.

So when Mason cut the hay on Sunday, it all looked good to bale the hay on Wednesday.  But come Monday morning, the forecast had changed, and rain had moved from Friday up til Wednesday.  So the decision to ted the hay again was made to help it dry faster and the hay baling date was moved to Tuesday.

Monday, the hay was raked into rows.

Tuesday morning, everyone was set to bale hay.  They would start baling in earnest at 1 pm, when everything was completely dry and work til about 9 pm, when the dew would be back on the field.  They were anticipating anywhere between 1500 and 2500 hay bales.

Side note: we’d never stored this much hay before, so our contractor came in and reinforced our hay loft and barn so it wouldn’t collapse from the weight of the hay.

Barn Beams

The forecast was for partly cloudy all day.

Baling commenced at about 1:00 when everything was completely dry.  Immediately the baler started breaking.

This is a very common part of farming.  Sometimes it seems that farmers spend more time fixing and maintaining their equipment than they actually do using it.

So they would bale several bales and then it would break.  They’d fix it and bale a few more and it would break again.  After a trip to the hardware store they installed stronger shear pins (I have no idea if that’s how you spell that but it was what the boys were telling me) and the baling proceeded faster.

But by this point, the clouds were getting darker and the forecast changed again to 30% chance of showers.

Putting Up Hay

Around 3 pm we had a light sprinkling of big, fat rain drops.  Bummer, but not a big deal.

And then, around 6 pm, the clouds opened up and it started down pouring.  And it continued down pouring for at least 30 minutes.  They got the load of hay that was being rained on into the hayloft.  Then somebody went to the store and bought salt and they had to put salt onto the hay to help pull the moisture out so it wouldn’t compost and catch fire later on in the winter.


Salted Hay Bales Drying in the Loft

Another 50 bales or so were left out in the rain.  I’m not sure what they’re planning to do with those.  They’re too wet to go into the hayloft even if they are salted.

All told, they got somewhere around 800 – 850 bales into the hayloft.

So what about the rest of the hay?  It’s still out in the field.  Mason is going to do his best to keep tedding it and getting it to dry out enough so it can be baled into round bales that he will feed to his cows. The round bales are not stored in a hayloft the way our square bales are, so there is not a big concern about fire.

But the rain is expected to continue all week, so he’s not sure if he’ll be able to do even that.

You can imagine that yesterday was a bit frustrating for all of us.  As I lay in bed trying to sleep, I spent a lot of time thinking about how frustrating it was, and the lessons that I’ve shared with my children over the years on how to handle that type of frustration.

This is what I kept reminding myself:

Don’t second guess the decision.  We are all forced to make decisions throughout each and every day.  Sometimes we will make good decisions, and sometimes hindsight will show that we made poor decisions.  But once the decision has been made, and if it can’t be undone, don’t second guess whether you made the right decision or not.  That just wastes a lot of emotional energy.

Accept that you made the decision with what information was available.  As you’re trying not to second guess your decision (you know we all do it to some extent), recognize that we live in an imperfect world with imperfect information.  You can only do the best with the information you have.  You can’t predict that a forecast of 7 straight sunny days will turn into 2 sunny days with lots of rain.  With 7 days of sun, we knew we had a buffer.  We made the right decision with the information we had available to us.

Don’t beat yourself up.  I think this is the hardest.  Even if you don’t second guess the decision, and know that you made a good decision based on the information available to you, many of us still beat ourselves up because it turned out to be the wrong decision.  Don’t do this.  You are not a perfect person and you never will be.  We all do the best we can.

Move on.  Instead of dwelling on the decision and the poor outcome that you didn’t want, you need to put the decision in the past and move on to what you’re going to do going forward.  There are still plenty of other decisions for you to make.

Put it in perspective.  Often we can take a frustrating event and really blow the significance out of proportion.  If we take a moment to put it into perspective, we can see that (for most frustrating events) this is not a life changing event.  It’s a minor frustration in the journey of life.

Look for the good side.  Good can be found in almost any situation.  In this event, we have 800+ bales stored for winter feeding.  No, it’s not what we should have had, but it’s more than I had yesterday morning.

Stacked Hay Bales

Learn from it.  Is there something to be learned from the decision that can help you make a better decision next time?  Probably not in this case (other than to have better shear pins on hand), but often times there are valuable lessons that can be learned.

Make the choice.  Life is full of frustrating events.  That’s a fact.  But what is important is not that they happen, but how we choose to react to them.  Because how we react is a choice.  We can choose to be miserable because of the frustration (and make everyone else around us miserable), or we can accept that things don’t always turn out the way we want them to and move on.

Teach your children.  Remember that your children are watching you.  You can use anything as a teachable moment, including your frustrations.  So many people get bogged down in the negative moments in life instead of accepting them, learning from them, and moving on.  Be careful to reinforce positive responses around your children.

And so I’ve moved on.  It was a huge bummer that I got less than half the hay I was expecting.  The change in the weather forecast was a big, extra expense.  But bottom line, it’s only money.  I can’t change the decision.  I can’t change the weather.  I can’t change how many bales I got.

But I can focus on the fact that nobody got hurt. That’s what is really important.  There were no tractor accidents, no hay equipment accidents, no broken legs from falling off the hay wagon or out of the barn.

And if I focus on that, it puts it all back into perspective.

And as a reminder, after the downpour, God sent a rainbow to remind me of His love and what really matters.

Rainbow after Soaking Hay




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Making Time for Family

Over the past 9 years, most of my focus has been on my business, my husband, and on my children (sometimes, but not always, in that order).  It has worked very well because I was able to integrate my time with all of them since we have the privilege of homeschooling and working together on the farm.

But now that my children are getting older, they’re taking over a lot of my business responsibilities.

Brett and Mason both want to continue working at Goat Milk Stuff and plan to raise their children in the business as Brett was raised in it.  Colter wants to not just work at GMS, but he also wants to take a leadership role in running the business as well. And Indigo is starting to work on some of my bookkeeping responsibilities which is a huge help.

As all of the children mature, they are requiring less supervision in their tasks as they master them and become more efficient.

While I wouldn’t say that I have a lot of free time, I am finding myself spending a little more time trying to add other priorities back into my life.  It’s why I’ve been able to start blogging again and why I’m working to relaunch my podcast and hopefully get the book written – although Brett’s wedding may delay my book plans a bit.

Saturday, I did something I wouldn’t have done over the past nine years.  I left Jim and the boys to work a busy Saturday at Goat Milk Stuff and I took my three girls and Mason to Dayton, Ohio.

What’s in Dayton?  Family!

My brother, Adam, and his family are currently stationed at Wright Patterson Air Force Base and live in Dayton.  They were hosting a small event with my brother Pete and his wife, my brother Mark and his wife, and my Mom and Dad.

So we woke all the girls and Mason up at 5:30 AM and headed to Dayton.

We had a wonderful time.  It was the first time Mason has spent any significant time with that part of the family (he fit in as well as we knew he would).

But more importantly, we took the time to show our family that they are important to us.

Over the past nine years, we’ve missed out on a lot of family events due to our commitments at Goat Milk Stuff. Afterall, we run a farm and the animals need to be milked twice a day.  You can’t easily skip that because there is a family dinner or special weekend.

Up til now, we rarely “split up” our family – either we all attended an event, or none of us attended an event.

But now that Brett is engaged, she and Mason will soon have their own home, and they will not always be included in our immediate family events.  This upcoming change in our family status is giving me a different perspective.  As much as I want us to all be together and attend family events together, it’s not always going to happen.

And so I grabbed the girls, they grabbed Mason, we abandoned the boys, and went to Dayton!

We had so much fun.  The children spent the entire day outside playing with their cousins. The adults spent the entire day all hanging out around the kitchen cooking and eating and cleaning up the mess from cooking and eating.  Our Italian family get togethers all revolve around good food, good company, and lots of laughter.

Did I mention good food?  We had chicken parmesan, penne pasta, lobster bisque, tons of grilled vegetables and mushrooms, and even grilled pineapple, peaches, and sliced lemons with a bit of sugar.

Mason also made a dessert that included angel food cake, lots of fresh berries, and homemade whipped cream.  Most of the food didn’t last long enough for me to get a photo of it, but Grandma grabbed this one of the grilled fruit.

I’ve always taught my children the importance of family (you can’t be one of eight children without learning that lesson!)  I’ve also done a lot of focusing over the past ten years on teaching my children how to work hard.  And I’ve been successful at it – they’re all hard workers.

Fortunately, I think they also know that they need to balance hard work with the following lessons.

It’s not all about hard work. Hard work serves a purpose.  It’s a good thing.  You need to be able to work hard and you need to be able to enjoy working hard.  But you also need to know when it is time to stop working hard and put family or others first.  Hard work is simply one tool in life’s tool belt.

Family is worth sacrificing for.  Saturday is our busiest day of the week on the farm.  Without me, Brett, Indigo, Jade, and Mason, the boys all had to work twice as hard to get the work done.  Normally they go running at some point in the afternoon, but they had to sacrifice their run because none of the girls were on the farm to cover for them.

Sometimes you need to be the one left behind.  For the girls to go and visit family, the boys needed to be willing to stay behind and man the farm.  This was not easy for them as they would have loved to have joined us.  But they were willing to stay behind so the girls could all go.

To balance it out a little bit, the girls and Mason covered the farm on the previous Friday night so all the boys (except Jim) could go and play ultimate Frisbee.  That is something that normally just Colter does with his friends, but he took all his brothers with him this week.

They had a blast.

I asked Hewitt how it went.  He said, “I had so much fun, but I’m not sure it was a good thing I went because now I want to go every week!”

I know on this blog that you will see lots of examples of the children working hard.  And they do.  But there are plenty of times we put work aside so we can do something fun with family. And we love it when we can do that!

What about you?  Are you good (or bad) at putting work aside to have fun with your family?




A Major Life Milestone!

There comes a time in everyone’s life when we face another milestone.  The Jonas family has reached one.  We have the pleasure of announcing our daughter, Brett’s, engagement to a wonderful young man, Mason.

For those of you who watch us on Facebook Live, you’ll know that Mason has worked with us for almost two years.  During that time, there have been some comments about Mason and Brett dating that have been tactfully avoided or denied.

I can remember one Facebook Live in particular when people were asking Brett what she was looking for in a guy and she answered something to the effect of, “I want a man who loves the Lord.”  Well I can very happily say that not only does Mason love the Lord, but he also loves my daughter.

Our family has been friends with Mason’s family for over ten years.  Brett and Mason first met (our best guess) about 13 years ago at New Life International.  Ten years ago, we suffered the loss of Mason’s beloved Grandfather, Byron McGuire.  It was after the funeral, that I told Brett that she had my permission to marry Mason.  And he’s the only one I’ve ever said that about.

Even as a very young man, Mason’s many fine qualities shone through.  He was respectful and polite and he had a way of looking you in the eye and giving you his attention that was unusual in a young man.

We didn’t have much interaction with Mason during the majority of his teenage years.  And then two years ago this upcoming October, Mason came back into our lives in a big way when he asked us for a job.  We (obviously) said yes, and I have had the privilege of getting to know Mason very well over the past two years.  He has proven to me that he has grown into the quality young man that the Mason of ten years ago foreshadowed.

Brett and Mason’s relationship these past two years was a bit rocky (much to Mason’s frustration).  After initial heavy flirtation, Brett “ran away” (her words). In hindsight, I think this was a good thing.  The two of them both matured in many ways over the past year while they weren’t “together”.  But more importantly, they got to know each other as friends.  And that was so important because they were not trying to impress each other or put on a good face for each other.  They were each just themselves and they know the good and bad sides of each other.  And despite (or because of) all that, they still love each other anyway!

Many people who know Brett and Mason are surprised by their “sudden” engagement.  The two of them made the decision a while ago, not to publish their relationship online or on social media.  Brett has grown up with much of her life available to not only family and friends, but also to customers.  She wanted their relationship to be their own and we all respected that. They were able to be themselves without having to put any of it online.

So while the engagement may seem sudden to some, to us (especially Emery and I who were the first to see the budding romance), it hasn’t been sudden at all!

Now, I do have to point out two of Mason’s biggest “shortcomings”.  First – his height.  My darling daughter takes after my petite side and is 4’11”.  She is really short.

I’m not sure who Mason got his height from, but he’s nowhere near petite.  He is 6’4″.

The two of them together are adorable and are perfectly matched despite the height difference.  (I’m all ready preparing myself to have my grandchildren tower over me LOL).

The second thing I feel I must point out is that Mason’s last name is Werst.  And yes, that will make her “Brett Werst.”

And that is how you know she must really love him if she’s willing to put up with “midget sausage” jokes for the rest of her life.

Congratulations to Brett and Mason!  May God richly bless your lives together.  We love you both!