Let me take a deep breath before starting this blog post. There were so many things packed into 2019 that I almost don’t even know where to begin. And yet, 2019 was oh-so-simple in every way. It was a year where I had no predictions of “what happens next”, or “it will work out this way.” In fact, if you remember, my word/phrase for 2019 was “just wing it”.
Winging it, I did.
In order to walk you through a recap of 2019, and let you know about my word for 2020, I have to start in 2018.
In October of 2018, just one week after the Homesteaders of America conference, we discovered an unexpected blessing. After almost 10 years of infertility, I was pregnant. While I was extremely joyful, I was also extremely taken off guard. You see, I had started a new career. I had a 9 year old that was very independent and needed little attention during the day. I could get so many things accomplished in a day––run a business, run a household, homeschool and more. And now, suddenly, all of this would change.
My husband said the first words out of my mouth were, “but I had plans”….
Man plans, and God laughs. I know this full well.
You can watch our pregnancy announcement and story in the video below.
For the first few months of my pregnancy, I was literally laying on the sofa each and every day. I’m one of those women who has horrible morning sickness for the first three months of my pregnancies. I was starting to feel depressed, if we’re being honest. We often take for granted our ability to get up and go about our day without feeling sick.
But by around the thirteenth week (sometime in January), I began feeling better. And by the fifteenth week I was fully well, for the most part. But more so, I was joyous.
Besides the sickness, for the first 12-weeks I had to take a progesterone supplement, as my progesterone levels were lower than they tend to want them to be. What an entirely new experience for me, but one I’m grateful for.
I tried my best to eat healthy and have a good diet while pregnant, but eventually that went out the window for a few months. Overall, however, I did well. Minus the 7-11 taquitos and gas station donuts that I craved every single day of my life. Sweet baby Jesus, they were good.
Before I get ahead of myself, though, let’s start this blog in the spring of 2019 since I was basically useless the first half of the year.
In April we decided to take a new temporary adventure. We brought home one of my grandfather’s bottle baby calves. She was only here for about a month, but we lovingly named her Rosie. She tried me in more ways than one while I was 7 months pregnant, but I wouldn’t have traded it for anything. This was one of those moments that was bittersweet, though.
A couple of years ago my grandfather discovered he had cancer. It has been a crazy journey, though joyous for the most part in recovery. When he first discovered this, he was going to sell all of his cows. I asked him then if we could purchase some cows from him (at the time we were looking at a piece of land to put them on). I wanted nothing more than to keep a part of his herd…a part of his legacy. But, he ended up feeling well enough to take care of his herd again and we didn’t pursue it any further (and the land deal didn’t go through).
In the summer of this year, however, he decided to sell his entire herd just after we brought Rosie home with us in the spring. It really was the best decision for him at his age and with his cancer diagnosis. To make it even more bitter sweet, we couldn’t keep Rosie on our property for more than a month or two, because let’s face it, we still live on a half acre. I was expecting a baby in June as well, and that simply wasn’t going to be an easy task in my final months of pregnancy and postpartum recovery.
So, Rosie found a new home with some friends of ours, and she is truly living her best life, of that I’m sure. While we weren’t able to get any of my grandfather’s cows (because we weren’t able to find land to purchase yet), we did have a pretty amazing month with this crazy calf.
On to happier things . . .
Also in April, I published my second homesteading book titled, The Homesteader’s Natural Chicken Keeping Handbook. This is a book that I really got excited about writing. There aren’t many “natural” chicken keeping books out there that are legit. The ones that are out there barely scratch the surface of herbalism and natural chicken keeping. So, I wrote one.
It was a labor of love, as all books are. But I partnered with some amazing women and chicken keepers that helped me out with the photos so that it didn’t all fall on me. It made for an absolutely beautiful book, and I’m so honored that some of their photos grace the pages of it.
You can find your copy of this book and my herb book by clicking here.
In May we welcomed our very first mail order chicks from McMurray Hatchery. With fifteen brand new chick babies on our homestead, we knew our egg baskets would be overflowing soon. A menagerie of Ameracaunas, Whiting True Blues, and Whiting True Greens. Unfortunately, a predator took many of them. We have since fixed that problem (more later in this post). But I was excited this fall when our little Whiting True Green laid her very first egg. It was a beautiful olive/tannish color.
As we planned for the arrival of a new baby in June, I also couldn’t stop planning a small garden in my mind. I had told everyone that I wasn’t going to plant a garden, because it would be too difficult. But, lo and behold, I decided to plant just a small one. Bless my husband’s heart. He went along with it all just to make me happy.
For the first few weeks I kept up with it well, but pregnancy has a way of slowing you down more than you care to be, and eventually the garden became too much after baby came. The tomato hornworms were not good to us this year, and despite my husband and son’s best efforts to pick them off every evening, we simply couldn’t keep up. We allowed the garden to go to the animals while salvaging what little we could.
That was a hard moment. With each new gardening year, I feel as though I become a better gardener. Gardening has a way of doing that. But this year was a complete and total failure. In this way, however, I learned quickly to give myself grace. I was not extremely happy with the amount of money I let go down the drain on the garden, though!
Through it all, my husband was extremely diligent in pulling together whatever plan I wanted to put into place. From helping me get a late start in the garden in May––putting up trellises and more––to helping me rip it all out in later summer. He was the epitome of selfless during this difficult time for me. The adjustment to pregnancy and new motherhood was not the easiest, but he made it easier.
Which brings us to June . . .
I was due towards the end of June with our newest little one. Who, coincidentally at the writing of this blog post, is not so little anymore.
Considering I didn’t have much of a normal first labor and delivery to go off of, I was at the mercy of my body and when it would decide to “do all the things”. With our first son, I went into pre-term labor at 34-weeks. They stopped the labor and I didn’t end up going into labor again until 41-weeks. So the question was, would I go into labor early, or would I go into labor late? I wanted neither.
The 34-week mark came and went, and I was so incredibly happy to make it to the 37-week requirement to be able to birth at a birthing center with my midwife. Oh, right, we decided to use a midwife this time around, and I don’t regret it one bit. It was the most amazing experience of my life. But you’ll read more about that shortly.
June was a constant game of waiting. So while I waited, I cleaned. I cleaned a lot. In fact, I cleaned myself right into labor towards the end of June. I had reached that point where none of my clothes fit . . . even my maternity clothes. I was literally walking around the house in leggings and large t-shirts. Often times, Mark’s t-shirts. I was miserable, as most women are at the end of their pregnancies. Being 10-years older than I was with my first pregnancy, everything seemed much different, and much more difficult.
From the beginning of this pregnancy I prayed diligently that my labor and delivery would be quick and easy, because my pregnancy had not been comfortable in the least bit. I felt good, but I just felt heaviness often since he was positioned so low for so long.
I had been having Braxton Hicks contractions since I was 20-weeks pregnant. I’d been having some real contractions gradually since 33-weeks pregnant. Had I have used a modern OB, they likely would’ve told me I was in pre-term labor again and tried to “stop” it. But the midwife never once checked me, and I knew my body was just preparing itself for a quick and easy labor.
On June 24th, at 39-weeks and 4 days pregnant, a storm began to roll through our little piece of Virginia. I made a joking remark to a friend that maybe I’d be like a cow and go into labor with the barometric pressure change. Little did I know, that’s exactly what would happen. Homesteader chats and comparisons really crack me up!
I was home alone that day. Junior had gone to work with Mark, and I had taken advantage of the alone time by cleaning the house and taking a nice long nap that afternoon. Naps were my favorite thing at this stage in pregnancy.
At around 4:30 pm I noticed how dark it was outside as I was getting up from my nap. For sure a storm was about to blow through. I had some weird cramping in-between my hips, so I decided to get up and move to a different position. I thought it was typical pregnancy discomfort and didn’t think anything more of it.
But when they started coming consistently and more frequently at around 5 pm, I decided to pay more attention. Because I had been having contractions for weeks, this pain didn’t seem like normal contractions and I doubted my body. Within a half-hour, however, I knew this wasn’t just typical pregnancy discomfort.
Thankfully Mark was on his way home already, because our birthing center was 45-minutes away from our house. His worst fear was that we wouldn’t make it there in time. But thankfully, we did.
We arrived at the birthing center at almost 8pm. I didn’t decide to leave home until well after 6 pm because I wanted to make sure I was actually in labor (everyone knew I was except me, I couldn’t admit it). I was more concerned with wasting people’s time than actually having a baby. What a silly mom thing to think!
When we arrived, the student midwife checked for dilation, and I was 6 cm dilated. She had the tub ready for me in case I wanted to labor (or labor and deliver) in the tub. This was quite a funny inside joke for us, because I was adamantly against the tub since I had gotten into a pool this Sumer and was miserable the entire time. I thought the tub would be the same way . . . but boy was I wrong.
Once in the tub, the midwife warned me that labor might initially slow down for the first 20-minutes, but then it would pick back up.
Friends, there was no slowing down . . . only picking up.
The entire labor went so quickly that I almost feel a little jipped that I didn’t get to experience it more. But I’m not going to complain! It also went by so quickly that we didn’t get many photos, at all. And there wasn’t much time for anything else to happen except for me to have a baby.
On June 24th at 9:18 pm, Everett Franklin Fewell was born in caul (in the amniotic sac) in the birthing tub. He weighed in at 8lbs 8oz and was 20-inches long.
The entire birth center experience was incredible and personable. Our midwives were absolutely amazing, knowledgable, and entertaining. Only three hours after birth, we were already on our way home. We took a deep breath, laid our newest bundle of joy down in his bassinet, and fell asleep. The next morning it was as if we just spontaneously woke up with a baby laying next to us, and that the previous night had never even happened. That’s how quickly it all happened…and how flawlessly.
Junior instantly fell in love with his little brother––this baby he had been praying for over the last seven years. If we’re being honest, I think this pregnancy had more to do with growing my child’s faith than my own. When we look outside of our small minds, and watch the big world around us, we’ll be amazed by God. We’ll be blown away by Him.
Junior had reached a point where he was distraught that I wasn’t going to have anymore children after he had been praying for a sibling for so long. In fact, just a few weeks before finding out I was pregnant, he said, “I don’t know why I keep praying for a baby . . . it’ll never happen.”
That was the first time I had ever heard wavering in his faith. Ever. And my heart broke. Little did he and I know that we were about to be blown away by the faithfulness of God. There is so much more to Junior’s faith (such a tangible faith in God), and one day I hope to share it with you.
I decided to have my placenta encapsulated this time around. And there went half of my reading audience . . .
No really, it was a pretty incredible experience. And I am happy I did it, because the postpartum recovery was so much easier (physically) because of it. The emotional roller coaster afterwards was as well. However, the hormones were for real, ya’ll. For the first two weeks after each baby I’ve had, I cry endlessly. My mind wanders to all the bad things that could happen. I make up scenarios in my head that don’t make sense. And overall, I just cry. I cry for what was and what could be. I cry because I’m happy and because I’m scared. I just cry.
I encourage you to read this instagram post that I posted about postpartum depression and how so many women deal with it. It doesn’t mean they are depressed for the rest of their lives. But it truly is a hormonal imbalance that should be embraced and talked about more.
Contributing most to my crying spell after birth was probably the very real fact that I had mastitis…and a roaring case of it. Not only that, but my milk supply dropped horribly, and it took over a week for me to see any change in it for the better. Unfortunately it was during a growth spurt time, and my milk supply just couldn’t keep up. So, we had to start supplementing.
The miracle in all of this, however, is that my sister-in-law had a baby just 8 weeks after me, and she is a over-supplier when it comes to breast milk. Shortly after my nephew’s birth, she offered to help us out by donating her extra milk to our little Everett. I am forever grateful to her for this, because having a completely breast-fed baby was my goal this time around. Nature didn’t see fit to help me with that, but my amazing sister-in-law did.
Also, I learned that baby wearing was my most favorite thing in the entire world, and I may or may not have a baby carrier buying addiction. Don’t tell my husband.
Our summer was carefree and easy. It was so simple. Simple was good for us in this season of life. I was able to harvest some herbs from the garden. And in August I hopped back into the daily grind of organizing and running the Homesteaders of America conference, as well as doing a review for Red Land Cotton bedding on my YouTube channel and blog..
We were living our best life. The arrival of Everett into our lives was and is euphoric. It was as if we were living in a dream. In fact, we are living the dream.
Before we knew it, October was here, and so was the Homesteaders of America conference. It’s a bittersweet time of year, because we get to see all of our hard work come to fruition, but it’s there and over with before you can blink. Each year I tell myself I’m going to give myself more time to intentionally “be” with people and enjoy their company. Each year it doesn’t happen. I’ll remedy that next year . . . I’ve promised that to myself! Also, mad photo creds to my sister for the above photo.
The 2019 HOA conference was amazing. It was hard, I won’t lie. With a baby in tow and running around every which way . . . it wasn’t easy. But oh man, did it show me exactly what I CAN do in a day. It was freeing . . . empowering. We have no idea what our bodies can do until we push them to the limit. Everett was a trooper as well. He only had one little melt down, and it was well deserved.
We had a special attendee at conference this year, and it was actually entertaining to have my photo taken with him. After a few years of chatting with Rory Feek and trying to get him to conference, he decided to attend while making his new tv show in 2019. He’ll be coming back as a speaker and entertainer in 2020, so get your tickets now!
How’s that for a shameless plug?
I had been running around like a crazy person all day long and the thought never dawned on me to take a photo with him. I still don’t actually have that photo, but I do have this one! And it’s just as good. Rory said, “well, I guess before I leave we should take a selfie.” I chuckled, it was great. Oh, how I love modern society and our selfies. It’s such a natural, and yet unnatural, thing to do now days. I can remember when I had to take selfies with a disposable camera and hope it turned out ok. You never knew until you got them developed!
More than anything though, I got the greatest little moment from Rory’s daughter, Indy. She is such a sweet little soul wrapped inside of pure joy and amazement. She just loved on Everett so much, and he really enjoyed her as well. It was a well needed break from the hectic day, to just sit down and enjoy a moment with her.
The 2019 Homesteaders of America conference was the best one we’ve had yet. With over 3,000 people in attendance, we packed the house ya’ll. And we are going to do it all over again in 2020!
I never imagined, in my wildest dreams, that HOA would become what it has become. I was happy with the mere 1,200 people that showed up the first year. Look at us now.
At conference, I couldn’t even take two steps before someone came up to me to express their gratitude for the event. Telling me how they felt wanted, like they were where they belonged. We’ve created so much more than just a homesteading event. We’ve truly encapsulated a community that is expanding each and every year. I’m absolutely in love with it all––every person, every story.
Homesteaders of America taught me something this year as well! Check it out here.
Moving on from HOA things . . .
Later in October, our drake Rouen duck was taken by a predator. We replaced him with a beautiful Ancona drake that we have come to love greatly. In fact, I just recently hatched eggs from this drake and our pekin hens. He makes beautiful babies, that’s for sure! And he has been a fine protector for our flock. We’ve respectfully named him Barney Fife.
The time between conference and the holidays seemed to go a little more slowly than I realized it would. The entire year, as a whole, zoomed by––but I think my favorite time was between October and November. It was quiet. The hustle of conference was over and even though there was still work to be done, the weight of expectation had been lifted. I took more time to intentionally love on my babies, love on my family, and just be “mama” and “wife”. It was a welcome down time.
As you may already know, I have had a book rolling around in my heart for quite some time. Not a homesteading book, but more of a Christian lifestyle book. During this quiet down time I felt God quickening my heart to Him more. I have the book, I have started the book, but there was something holding me back.
It was in the depths of a quiet evening as I lay in bed while praying, that I felt God say, “you don’t know Me like you should.” And I gasped. That’s not something any Christian wants to hear. Yes God, I do know you! But it wasn’t necessarily knowing Him (and yet it was)…it was knowing His word. During that quiet time I realized that I was not as in-tune and attached to the Bible and His word as I should be. The Bible says to hide His word in your heart. I haven’t done that. Maybe some, but not all.
I was taken back to a few years ago when we attended church with a family from Africa. I can remember one of the oldest girls telling me that in their country, they have to memorize the entire Bible as a teenager. The entire Bible. Can you imagine? What an incredible ability to have, but more importantly, what an amazing way to hide God’s word in your heart. How many times must you read it, and the ability to recall it, before memorizing it in its entirety?
So I decided to put together a “Bible in a Year” challenge for my Homestead Homemaking group in 2020. You can read more about that here. I’m most excited to dive into His word in 2020 than anything else!
Back to the book . . .
In order to finish this book, I knew I needed to hide God’s word in my heart. I know God, but I don’t know His word as well as I should. And in order to write a book on the topic I’m writing about, I need to know His true character . . . His true will for our lives. And so, I’m taking the next year to do exactly that.
A friend asked me how I’m going to dive into this new book since it’s an entirely new publishing experience. And my response is, I have no idea. But I’m trusting God will put the right people into my life to help it happen in its own timing. He’s been faithful to me for so long . . . I don’t think He’ll stop being faithful now.
Moving ahead into December. I was met face to face with a fox one recent morning . . . with one of my ducks in his mouth. It was interesting, to say the least. But that morning I decided it was time to put up the electric netting . . . finally. We did exactly that, and so far it has been a life saver . . . literally. You can watch our weekend of putting up the fence (and the story of the fox) here.
If you’re not outside in your boots, gown, and robe at o’darkthirty in the morning, are you really even a homesteader? I was not happy about the situation. But thankfully my duck made it! My crazy attire probably scared the fox for life.
As I mentioned before, we also recently hatched ducklings for my aunt. You can watch that recent adventure here.
Finally, it was time to decorate for Christmas. I decided to go as minimalist as possible this year. You can watch me decorating our little home here. Christmas seemed to come so quickly once December arrived. We made some sugar cookies and other goodies for friends before Christmas. And while the mess was real, it was welcomed. My 10-year old is not interested in doing much with “mom” now days. So when he said he wanted to help with the cookies, a joy welled up instead of me. He’s so big and independent now, and I’m happy for that. He’s going to make such an incredible man one day. But for now, he’s still just as much my baby as our actual baby is . . . and I think he always will be.
Our December has been hectic and quiet all at once. Can that even be possible? I assure you it is.
On December 24th, Everett turned 6 months old. How did we go from newborn to half a year old so quickly? In fact it feels like it went just as quickly as you reading this post. Where has the time gone? Why does it go so fast? In the beginning weeks I remember praying this time would come . . . that I’d have a little more breathing room and independence soon. And now I’m left here wondering how on earth we got here so soon.
My grandmother tells me that it’s because he’s making room for the next one to come. I chuckled, and shrug. Sure, we’d love to have more children. But you learn to not place potentially unrealistic expectations on things that once were unattainable. With that said, I plan to go back onto my Keto Diet in January to start getting healthier again, and lose some of these pounds I’ve gained in 6 months! If God wants to bless us with another little one, I’d like for it to be sooner rather than later so that Everett has a sibling closer to his age. We’ll see where the next few years takes us! It’s going to be fun . . . I can feel it!
All of 2019 was full. It was full to the brim with so many joyous and busy things. It was full to the brim with more love than I could handle, and more realities than I cared to face. So many things went wrong, but even so many more went right. It was a year of simple, and yet it wasn’t so simple. Isn’t that how life seems to go?
All of this brings me to my word for 2020. Have you figured it out yet?
For the last two to three years of my life, I have been flying by the seat of my pants. I have had so many things happening that I’ve literally just been on this ride called life. Whatever happened, happened. And I would meet it when it happened with joy and grace . . . no matter what it was. It has been an incredible way of living, and a wonderful experience.
But this year is different. This coming year I want to live intentionally. Sure, I’ve done this in so many ways in my life. I wouldn’t have success or the things I’ve worked for if I didn’t. But that’s exactly what it has been about . . . work.
In 2020 I want to live intentionally for the simple everyday things.
I want to intentionally pour a cup of coffee, close my eyes, and enjoy it . . . even if just for a few seconds.
I want to intentionally kiss my babies good morning before anything else happens in their day.
I want to intentionally sit on the sofa and listen to my 10-year-old read me a book, or play a game, or simply just “be”.
I want to intentionally choose to be a better homemaker, a better mom, a better wife.
I want to intentionally choose joy, kindness, and simple. Especially when simple presents itself as complicated.
Simple intent––choosing simple.
Huh…almost sounds like it would make a good book…
So, here’s to a sweet year end goodbye. Cheers, 2019. You’ve been so sweetly gracious to us.
Likewise, hello to a beautiful new year––a blank slate, a new tapestry.
And here’s to the reminder that each year weaves the most beautiful picture of our lives . . . we simply have to hang on to see the ending.
Happy New Year, friends. May it be full of peace, love, prosperity kindness, and revelation.