The days go on, rapidly passing in this endless life loop. With full-time careers, kids overly scheduled for activities, rigorous Farmer’s Market tempo, and an endless to-do list, we found ourselves burning out as we operated at warp speed from the latter year’s holiday without reprieve. Where had the time gone? What had been accomplished? And, what did it mean if, in the end, there was no joy?
Summer times here, a time for laughter, adventure, and long nights in the backyard, spending quality time. Josh and I have realized we can’t have it all right now. For us, family is the focus. We only have a finite time to spend time and make memories. So, we have just decided to slow down. Take some of the livestock we raise out of cycle, scale back on Farmer’s Market attendance, and pursue more joy.
Joy in Short.
In pursuit of joy, we find ourselves doing more projects at home together, building imperfect creations that spark joy. Whether it be a brooder, a tallow recipe, or a gardening hack, we’ve re-found pleasure in creation. The girls are really into creative writing, and it has been a treat as they develop various archetypes, often narrating their latest iteration with great artistic license and often using their baby brother as a stage prop, lol. On a more intentional note, we spend more time in the Word and fellowship with our family in Christ, joy words cannot define. The slowdown has created this microcosm of joy that has transformed us in unexpected yet better ways.
With that, we continue to care for rabbits, chickens, ducks, sheep, pigs, and the occasional cow; however, this is less about creating products and more about feeding our family and community enough supply to meet customers’ demands as needed. So, this is not “so long,” as we will continue to attend a few markets and are hopeful for other products we are testing at Smart Growth Farms. We are only reframing how we do business to maximize family time beyond the grind.
Psalm 16:11. You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
I cannot recall December. We often went 100 MPH during a time that should have been slow and deliberate. Yet, with visits, gifts, and events, we just picked up with January and pressed. In November, I received a notification from my job that I would have to leave for 35 days to attend training in Alabama. It could not have been more poorly timed. January and February are big celebratory months for us, kids’ birthdays and my and Josh’s anniversary. This year, we planned to visit Disney World for Emerson’s 1st birthday; upon notification of my training, I was notably vexed as days prior, we’d secured a hotel for our Florida trip.
Naturally, Josh and I were fuming about this disruption. We thrive as a unit; I am unsure if there is more to say. We work well together; the girls are fantastic ranch hands and sisters to each other and their baby brother. So, the idea of not taking them on this trip was quite disheartening. But, as is the life of a dual-military family, the trip was delayed, and I was off to Alabama on 4 January…yay. As I write from training, I cannot quite explain how it feels as a first-time mom to be away from your child; I feel like I cannot breathe; God knows, I am not sleeping (hello insomnia).
As we navigate my absence, Emerson has only slept separately from me for two nights with my mom in our home. Plus, he moved daycare rooms, so I am filled with many fears. The girls [unfortunately] returned to public school (a convo for another day). It feels very unsettling not to have been there to walk them to their classes and meet their teachers. On top of that, my husband has military duty, the kids and their activities, the farm, and other community responsibilities. I feared that he would burn out, but he is holding strong. My hero.
Josh has unmatched discipline. I pity the fool who thinks they work harder than him. There is no pity party; he gets it done. He has the farm running like a well-oiled machine. I watched him build cross-fencing in December, pounding holes and wiring for hours. He has been at farmer’s markets most weekends and delivering meat to local customers (thank you to our supporters). The silver lining through this experience has been the support of our local friends watching Emerson and the girls, dropping them off to and from practices; we are largely successful because of our family by choice, our friends. I was relieved that Josh was running the housefront well. However, it did not stop me from jumping on the first plane back to Texas to spend time with my family and give him a much-needed break.
My Visit Home, Texas!
Of course, getting home was no small feat. My flight was delayed two hours, causing me to miss my connection. I got to San Antonio after midnight versus 8 p.m., woof. Josh was sick when I arrived. So, I was happy to be home to give him space to rest. That did not happen; he had a farmer’s market on Saturday, the girl’s basketball season started, and we celebrated our newest 9-year-old’s birthday. I woke up on Saturday, and he was gone. So, it was the kids and me. We went for Booba Tea, donated, and watched some early basketball games. Between waking up and getting to the basketball game, I got really sick. I could not hear or breathe, and I quickly went hoarse. Help! Despite this, I carried on.
The Return to Alabama.
I was sick the entire trip, my head fully congested with aching ears as each plane ride gained elevation. I don’t think I have had a worse head cold. I returned to my hot military lodging that only possessed a cold water option in the shower. I was so sick I did not care. I took a very cold shower and slept in a warm room with a box fan. I woke up on Tuesday and was returned to my room immediately, where I was asked to get a COVID test (boo!). Needless to say, I was in denial as I had not had COVID thus far. BAM! COVID +, how fun. Since the test results, I have been stuck in this musty hotel room. So, I am writing.
Joy in the Juggle.
You know, the Ritchey family is a resilient bunch. We put our heads down and work. We don’t require much to thrive, and we try to do the best we can with what we are handed, but dang. This new year’s start has come for our jugular. We could easily say, “why me/us,” but what do we gain from that? We consider every shift thus far a test of our obedience and discipline; we adapt. There is beauty in the mess and redemption in our challenges. I guess that is the upside of recognizing that it is a new year, same Jesus. We continue to accept His will and do the work required to sustain ourselves even amid disruption. We will keep our heads up and stay prayed up, knowing this is all temporary. So, I share this story to encourage you to find joy in the juggling of life; things don’t always work our way, or with the ease, we sometimes come to expect, but with obedience and discipline, any challenge can be endured and championed, stay encouraged!
With full-time careers and a house full of kids, the rigamarole of farming and running our business as a side hustle can leave Josh and me running on fumes. Last weekend, Josh went all in on finishing our second house on the property that will double as our business space and Josh’s brewing hobbies. Meanwhile, I felt like I was going in circles, cleaning up after the house pets and kids with hopes of organizing. As I feverishly cleaned baby bottles while thinking about all the prep work we needed for our next market event, the realization hit me like a bull bucking an unwanted passenger that sometimes you have to let the little things go. Keeping a house hygienic is a priority. However, keeping our home clean as if it is not lived in is absurd. We have so many things going on simultaneously that we cannot worry about shoes being stored in the wrong place or hair brushes on the kitchen island. We are no longer concerned with unfolded laundry sitting on the couch for a few days…or longer (haha).
In our family, we prioritize family. We work hard and enjoy the fruits of our labor together. Whether it be a family movie, game night, or smores over the fire pit, we enjoy time well spent together. The markets are busy, and we are in the throws of volleyball, soccer, and girl scout season. Josh and I are somehow juggling all of these things, which is not always pretty and is often exhausting. But, at the end of each night, after the kids have wound down with a family t.v. show and headed off to bed, Josh and I get to reflect over the day, laughing at what most would not understand by proxy of us sharing the same professional career (we spend almost all of our time in nearness, and I love it). The day’s reflection makes us grateful to one another and for our life because there is an invaluable richness to experiencing life and love with someone you can depend on through the good, bad, and downright ugly.
Let it go, Let it go…
So, let the dishes pile up and let the dog double as the vacuum cleaner; I am sure the dog loves the floor treats. And, if you are local, enjoy the pleasant, relaxed sunny day at your local farmers market. You can meet us this Saturday at Decock Farm in Castroville, TX (30 min outside of San Antonio) from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Say hello, and check out our pasture-raised, non-soy, non-GMO meats.
And don’t forget that you can never go wrong when eating smart with Smart Growth Farm!
Farming is hard work, no doubt. You start early and have long days. It, at times, can feel like a heavy lift. And, at other times, a breeze. Regardless of which side of the slippery scale we are on, we always find a way to bring laughter into the mix. Whether that be the sheep stampeding in the opposite direction of their new paddock or me falling into the temporary fencing after we burn many calories coercing the sheep into their paddock with alfalfa pellets, and I find my way out of the fencing, we can get through the day together with laughter.
Farmer Markets and Girl Scouts: Our Girls Mean Business
As young entrepreneurs with a young family, we try our best to ensure our kids (10, 8, and 7 months) understand our business practice from beginning to end. They work the farm to include processing. They wake up before sunrise on market days to help set up. And they are the salesmen and cashiers, processing bitcoin, credit cards, and cash. To keep their motivation up, they receive a percentage of the earnings for each transaction they make at the market.
They are also Girls Scouts and take it very seriously. With fall product season upon us, the girls were on double duty last week at the market. They were making transactions for the market and promoting their chocolates and nuts. Their efforts paid off as they made their percentage for the day with the market, but they each surpassed their sales goal for Girl Scouts, each garnering the title “Top Troop Sellers”; there are only two people in the troop that can hold this title. This is a huge win for them as they worked beyond their fears and made those sales. Between the markets and Girl Scouts, the girls are making us proud as community servant leaders and future entrepreneurs (fingers crossed)!
This weekend we will be at another market. Although the girls have reached the required goal to attain all patches, they are excited to push themselves as salesmen and plan to work our booth while also eagerly boosting their Girl Scout product sales in their highly coveted vests!
So, if you are local, you can meet us at Decock Farm in Castroville, TX (30 min outside of San Antonio) from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Say hello, check out our pasture-raised, non-soy, non-GMO meats, and see our girls in their prime.
You can never go wrong when eating smart with Smart Growth Farm!
The dog days of summer are ending, and we are feeling more relaxed afternoons (~91-95 degrees Fahrenheit) in the great state of Texas! With cool days and crisp leaves on the horizon, hearty meals become a staple in our home. Stews and roasts with fresh veggies from our local farmers market are something our family savors. We are fortunate enough to enjoy pasture-raised, soy-free, non-GMO livestock from our farm to our family table; it is truly a blessing. There is something so special about enjoying the fruits of one’s labor. Caring for our animals as they relish in the grass-fed life is something in which we take pride. Given the state of the world, America, and experiencing what it means to live in a border town (our county is within 100 miles of the Mexico border), the world’s perils often fall away when working on our farm.
“Mud baths are the perfect temp these days.”
As we move into fall, the farmer’s markets are far more enjoyable in south Texas (30 miles from San Antonio, to be exact). We are ramping up to support several events and markets to share our meats and meat knowledge with the local communities we serve. At Smart Growth Farm, we believe that access to locally grown and properly cultivated food is something all Americans should have access to. Knowing where to find or receive locally sourced food should not be challenging in a bustling city or a rural town. And, as veterans who have traveled near and far in defense of this great country of America, we know how challenging it can be to attain nutritional food. So, Smart Growth Farm will always provide opportunities to share clean, nutritional food locally or across the U.S. So, check out our products and eat smart with Smart Growth Farms!
Spring has sprung, but May showers [in south Texas] do not exist. Yet, the trees are sprouting leaves and there are flowers fighting to flourish, adding pops of color of varying hues of blues, purples, pinks, and such across the vast brown; what a beautiful time of the year. Josh’s efforts in the garden while I finished up my dissertation were not in vain. We are figuring out water, but are seeing the fruits of his labor. We shall enjoy the goodness of the garden soon enough!
Other than the garden, we have grown our farm since the last update, adding 60 chicks and two calves. They are loving the land. The cows escaped their area once and we found them hanging out under the trees on the property, enjoying the grass amongst the sheep. Our chicks have grown significantly and they are thankful for the heat protection we erected to protect them from the Texas sun. Speaking of escape artists, this month has been full of surprises with each of our animals escaping from their paddock at least once this month. Early morning, I was outside enjoying a cup of joe when I saw Ms. Pig perusing the land with the LGDs; she is easy to persuade back in with food, but who knows how long she’d been meandering around the farm. But, our sheep, specifically one ram and one ewe, love to roam the grounds separate yet close to the herd. We gather it is because they do not love the hay bales we provided for them. So, this week, we bought a bale of pea and peanut hay and they have remained in their paddock; seemingly, they are pleased, lol.
Last weekend, we left the farm for a short road trip to Gause, TX. We checked out the Flote Festival! What a good time it was. We attended a few speaking events, the kids were covered in paint, trying their hands at making tye-dye t-shirts, and we introduced our products to the festival attendees. The girls got a picture with Jeremy “Spike” Cohen an American libertarian political activist, entrepreneur, and podcaster. He was the Libertarian Party’s nominee for vice president of the United States in the 2020 election, serving as Jo Jorgensen’s running mate. How awesome is that?! On top of that, we kinda fangirled over Jack Spirko best known today as the host of The Survival Podcast. The show has been running since 2008 and now has over 3,000 episodes available on all aspects of self-sufficiency, self-reliance, independence, and personal liberty. What an awesome weekend!
This week, we are gearing up for a week-long road trip, visiting AZ, CA (don’t judge us), NV, maybe NM, and back home to the great state of Texas. Stay tuned for updates on this trip and other goodness happening around Smart Growth Farms!