It was just a thought in passing… and someone said it out loud so it became an idea… and then a few discussions and some phone calls later it became a plan. But plans do not always happen as planned… and through a series of unexpected events, setbacks, challenges, what-ifs, and very much prayer – the Lord opened up the door for three of us Stelzls to make a trip up north to Honey Brook Farms.
If you remember this post from last year, David and I spent a full week at the Wilkes’ farm last September (following a full week at Kilpatrick Family Farm with the entire family in upstate New York!). We were *so* incredibly blessed by our time, and came away with an incredible new knowledge of farm life – and we very much wanted to make that happen again this year!
Wow… what an incredibly amazing adventure! I still can’t believe that it actually happened, as 2 days before we left it seemed that the last door had closed. But God was gracious! David’s new mini-van had many parts that needed replacing and fixing, and a kind man from our church volunteered to work with David on the car for 2 days straight (at his home!). So when David arrived home at 3AM on the morning we were due to leave for our trip, we knew that we were free to set off on our adventure! And 2 hours later, we were up and preparing to leave!
<A fun picture from last year’s visit on the farm…>
Our trip started bright and early on Wednesday morning, the 8th of October. We arrived at the farm late afternoon, in time to talk, tour the farm, help make dinner, and participate in farm chores, etc!
Thursday morning all of us girls set to work baking many delicious breads and treats (for the afternoon farmer’s market), while the guys set up for chicken processing. We joined them mid-morning to butcher 108 chickens, 1 turkey, and 15 ducks (which lasted until mid afternoon)… and then spent the remainder of the afternoon separating all of the chicken parts into various packages, labeling, bagging, organizing, etc. I was able to help with a variety of different jobs (including one or two where I told myself “I can do this, but no way can I bring myself to do that…” and soon I was right in there having oh-so much fun with all the others – total grossness… laugh it off! )!!! Many hands make light work, and the time passed by quickly with stories, conversations, and *so much laughter*!!
The Wilkes’ have a friend (Benjamin) who had arrived several days prior to our arrival, and was planning to stay for several weeks/months to help with the farm. Benjamin has worked at Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farm, and has an incredible knowledge and understanding of farming. Through his skills we were able to successfully get the 15 ducks processed in a much easier and more effective way than prior attempts. He made us laugh so hard, and showed us how to do things easier and better. It was great fun getting to meet him and hear his stories, and to learn from him in many ways!
Friday morning 100 dozen eggs were washed and packed into cartons. Us girls baked more breads and dessert for the 3 Saturday markets (including an abundance of gluten free recipes). We worked fast in order to get everything finished by 2:30 as the girls needed to leave for an evening conference that was 1 1/2 hours away. My mom and I were blessed to join all of the Wilkes ladies (from Teams 1,2 and 3), along with the babies, for this conference – done by Shoshanna Easling from the Bulk Herb Store. The drive was 3 hours round trip, with the conference lasting from 5-9. We learned many wonderful things – I was thrilled to hear Shoshanna’s story of the many severe health issues she’s faced, and to come away inspired by many natural remedies and herbal ideas for more serious health issues (lyme, parasites, tick born diseases). And what a fun surprise to see familiar faces there from past conferences, and to meet a sweet girl who reads my health blog – but whom I had never met! (Thanks Cameron for introducing yourself to me!)
<With sweet friends… at Shoshanna Easling’s Journey to Health conference>
On the drive up and back there were so many lovely and exciting conversations. I enjoyed hearing from Amanda and Lisa about married life (as young wives and mothers), organization and planning, caring for babies, etc. I talked with Sarah about the products I make, recipes for syrups, salves and tinctures.. and my ebook which is still in the editing stages here with various family members working on it. I smiled and made faces at the babies (who were beside me and in front of me) for most of the trip. They smiled back and ‘talked’, and then slept for a while).
When we arrived home it was midnight. I helped Sarah package up baked goods that had been cooling when we left (for market the next morning), fold laundry, and tidy up the kitchen. We laughed *so hard* while we worked… as if we don’t already laugh enough when we’re together, this time we were exhausted at the same time… I was so worried that we would wake the guys up (as their room was just about 10 feet away from the laundry folding pile), but the following morning we were relieved to hear that they had been ‘so out’ from a long and tiring day. Ahhh… good thing!
Saturday morning started off early (lol… almost too early for our midnight adventures! ) with 3 teams going to 3 different markets, each about an hour from home. It was chilly and raining lightly at the market I attended, but we were grateful for all of the people who came to see us!! I so enjoyed hearing Josh talk to the customers about all the health benefits of their chicken and eggs, the non-GMO wheat in their bread, the gluten free products, etc. It was truly an educational experience, and to see them meeting needs which such passion was incredible! On the way home our group stopped to check out a small festival in a little town close to home. That was quite the interesting experience – both unforgettable and fun! More laughable moments.
I helped Sarah make up some dinner and desserts after we arrived home from market early afternoon. We made fresh mashed potatoes for the Shepherd’s pie, from Daniel’s garden potatoes. While they boiled we ran out to tour the farm and see the sheep, pigs, chickens, etc. I so enjoyed the walk through the lovely fields, the cool breeze, standing on the hay bale with Sarah for fun pictures (thanks to Mark who rode his bike around the farm with us), and then racing inside after realizing that our potatoes were probably all over the kitchen. Thankfully there’s always another pair of eyes watching out at the Wilkes’ home. And the kitchen was never deprived of someone to look after things.
Later that evening Wilkes Teams 1, 2, and 3, along with the grandparents all gathered to celebrate 2 birthdays – with Josh’s first cheesecake (which was intended to be a surprise for his wife Lisa, but something funny happened…another story for another time that Josh tells really well! Laughing…), a homemade ice-cream cake, delicious dinner, and presents.
After dinner, we had the joy of hearing the Wilkes family sing a choral arrangement they’re working on, as well as another group song (including their friend Benjamin), a song that just the guys did, and another one with Matthew and Amanda (piano and singing). Benjamin played a few pieces on the harp for us, and then Josh & Lisa’s little guy quoted the New Testament book names in order,and sang several fun songs.
Sunday was a restful day. Daniel shared a message from James 3 on controlling the tongue, and exhorted us to speak words of life and blessing. This was followed by a time of praise, confession, prayer for our leaders, and hymn singing. We played games in the afternoon (guys) while most of the girls rested (I watched Matthew and Matthew and Amanda’s baby girl and played with her, while watching the guys figure out their new game). We played volleyball before supper, until dark. And of course we made the most of our last day on the farm, staying up into the morning hours with games, singing, playing instruments, etc.
Other highlights from the trip include:
– Laughing *so hard* with various members of the family – sometimes about nothing in particular, and sometimes about something absolutely hilarious…
– Learning new aspects and skills associated with chicken, duck, and turkey processing.
– Being at the market with with several Wilkes’ on Saturday, and feeling quite at home – smiling as customers asked me if we raise the chickens on our farm and if our mom could come and give a health class to some women…
– Laying across the upstairs porch with Sarah and Mrs. Wilkes, watching the guys head out into the dark in pursuit of a pesky fox that has been killing off their chickens and turkeys!
– Racing around the yard and crawling under the truck with Markie and David – trying to catch one of many ducks that escaped from the trailer as Benjamin was getting some out for processing.
– Picking vegetables from the garden, for supper…
– Washing dishes, dishes, and more dishes… it’s officially a tradition, and my new favorite job in the kitchen lol.
– Receiving shocking and oh-so-very EXCITING news from a sweet family (dear friends) in New England.
– Helping Sarah dump a wheel-barrow load of food scraps into the pig pen, and watching them all squeal and rush around trying to grab the tastiest vegetables…
– Helping Sarah give medicine and water to the goats.
– Holding the babies, and playing with them.
– Sharing my most embarrassing moment (from just a few weeks ago!) with *everyone* (at least 4 times). A particular someone in this dear family always comes up with the most brilliant ideas at the most random moments – and that is how I ended up getting “volunteered” to share with the entire family around the table. Ahh… *so much* laughter… and tears!
– Washing eggs, eggs, and more eggs – then packing them up.
– Sharing testimonies, and hearing testimonies from different ones, of how the Lord has been at work.
– Getting to know different members of the Wilkes family better as I worked with them on various projects (doing chores with Sarah, being at market with Josh and Hannah, washing eggs with David (my brother) and Mr. Wilkes, helping Adam cut up chicken parts for a customer’s dog, conversing with Benjamin in the kitchen while making food, listening to Amanda share valuable insights on being a wife and mother, talking with Jenny at a late hour while she finished making pop tarts, etc.
– Having hilarious conversations at the dinner table… along with miscommunications on the part of a few who came in late, which resulted in twice as much laughter about the most random topics…
– Making ranch dressing with Sarah one afternoon – apparently one of us thought the secret ingredient was *plenty* of onion powder, and the other thought it was *lots* of sugar… what an interesting salad dressing! LOL
– Playing rush hour traffic with Sarah (we laughed so hard at the thought that we were actually playing this game together!! How long has it been since I played that? ).
– Singing around the piano with everyone!
– Waking up early and going to bed late (making the most of every single day)!
– laughing about the big spider sitting behind me on the porch (while we were all having lunch at 3PM, after chicken butchering and singing).
– Watching the planes fly overhead all weekend, in preparation for the air show on Saturday (which some from Wilkes Teams 2 and 3 attended, while most of the others were at market).
– Seeing the young kittens and holding them.
– Walks on the farm, sunrises and sunsets, cool breeze, chilly mornings and evenings, fog, rain, sunshine…
– Family devotions, times of sharing around the table, story evenings, watching a session on financial freedom one evening and taking a self-evaluation test, brainstorming on survival ideas and valuable skills with the whole team, etc.
– Watching the Wilkes teams (1, 2, and 3) interact with such selflessness, love, joy, compassion, and humility. I so appreciated their gratitude, their sensitivity to one another, their encouragement and praise, their enthusiasm, their love for God and each other, their passion for what they do and the people they see and provide products for… and their willingness to admit their wrongs quickly and make things right.
Check out these fun pictures from last year’s visit.
Thank you so much Wilkes Teams (1, 2, and 3) for making our visit SO very special – for graciously providing an incredible experience for the three of us – both to learn new skills and grow in our knowledge of how things are done on a farm, and also spiritually as we were challenged to grow in many ways by your beautiful Christ-like examples. We love you all so much, and look forward to future visits. Keep up the great work, and may Father bless you richly and abundantly in the work of your hands, and all that you endeavor to do – for His glory.