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Let’s Talk Fair

It has been a while since I last posted; life has kept us very busy from struggling with health issues as I have been for the past week (some unknown illness with increasing symptoms that tha VA can’t seem to figure out, almost 2 years of sickness and frustration) to getting back into a homeschooling routine, taking care of the house and farm (always trying to learn more about homesteading, self-sufficiency and rabbit ranching), growing  Handmade & Homespun  (our handicrafts business endeavor which has picked up recently as I am designing and crafting for a local boutique; take a look at some of those items HERE) and then there was the County Fair.

The fair always takes precedence over just about everything else.  We begin a few days prior to the fair by collecting, organizing and categorizing our arts and crafts entries.  We have been exhibiting our handicrafts and art work in the fair since the boys were small.   Thinking about and then making items to display in the fair helps us to be imaginative and branch out with our creativity.  We attempt to make  numerous new items throughout the year to fill as many of the categories as possible which helps us to learning new skills and techniques; it’s a great deal of fun as well as an exciting challenge. 

This year the family entered a total of 26 items in the fair.   We earned 24 first place ribbons and 2 second place ribbons (correction from my Facebook post) as well as 1 Best of Show.  Joel is the only family member to have received a BOS and this is his THIRD time to do so.  I am very proud of him; even MacKenzie was extremely complimentary of his brother’s efforts.  This year Joel’s BOS was for an original crochet design; a pizza pocket.   Everyone made a nice bit of money from their winnings and with the implementation of a new payment system we were issued our checks when we picked up our entires at the end of the fair rather than waiting a month or more; very nice.

The boys were a bit disappointed that they were not permitted to enter any food items this year (they each won blue ribbons for their entries last year; Joel won a BOS for his butter mints) but due to the timing of Yom Teruah (Feast of Trumpets), illness, and Charley’s week-long business trip to Canada we opted not to cook/bake this year.  Once all of our A&C items were submitted we made the obligatory stroll through the live stock area to gander at the animal entries.  It is because of the fair that we decided to start raising rabbits.  Though I am a former suburbanite Yankee, I have always been interested in farming and animal husbandry but living in town (though it is a small southern, farming community) we are restricted regarding what we can raise within city limits; but when we saw that the boys shared my interest in learning about and caring for livestock we decided to raise rabbits namely because we can keep them in town (that’s how 4D was started).  Usually that is the end of our fair participation except to take the boys to the Carnival one evening during fair week but this year we wanted to learn more about the live sock; we wanted to see the rabbit judging and showmanship specifically. 

We spent 4 days at the fair grounds this year observing animals and talking with their owners, of course the boys want at least one of everything.  We learned a great deal about goats by talking  with the mother of one of the boys MacKenzie used to go to public school with;  Monica was extremely knowledgeable and very happy to discuss their herd.  We got to milk a goat and try smoked goat meat, which tasted a great deal like pork to me.  I liked the meat whereas I DO NOT like goat’s milk.  Would LOVE to have a goat but the law prohibits hoofed animals within city limits.  We also had a lovely time conversing with one of the Agricultural teachers from a neighboring school district; another Monica, she was an extremely nice young lady there with her students showing rabbits for the first time (they actually did very well).  We talked a great deal about rabbits and in the corse of that conversation she informed us that Homeschoolers can be members of FFA (Future Farmer’s of America).  She didn’t have the particulars but I researched them the following week and have since spoken with our new superintendent about the possibility of MacKenzie taking an Ag Science class or two and joining FFA, which is  a topic for a whole other post.   

Back to rabbits, we learned more about breed standards as well as hold techniques to handle and manipulate our rabbits better.  The new knowledge we acquired has given us confidence to begin the process of breeding for show for next year which in turn also helped us in making a decision regarding which breeds we truly want to focus on (we will be doing away with our Cals and branching out int Rex, keeping New Zealand and Florida Whites as our main meat breeds while still attempting to mate our Flemish Giants).   Now that the weather is cooling off, after the intense heat wave we experienced this summer, we are hoping that the bucks have returned to a fertile state  and that we will be kindling some new litters soon.  We mated all of the age appropriate rabbits  last month and ALL were misses (UGH!), so we are waiting to see who took this time; praying!  We are also  expectantly awaiting our Castor Rex trio.

So, the fair kept us busy, educated us and may prove to have offered an educational (perhaps the beginning of a career) opportunity through Ag Science and FFA; praying about that as well.  It also made for a nice date night for CD and me as the boys went off to the carnival together with friends, Charley and I strolled the fair grounds together; we had a lovely evening talking with each other as well as with other folks, viewing the exhibits and live stock and enjoying a bit of fair food (nothing fried or on a stick, our guts can’t take that anymore).  Now to start preparing for next year’s Fair.

This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it”.  Psalm 118:24

Faith On The Farm


Many times, especially in reguards to matters of faith, someone has already written something much more eloquent and succinct than I ever could, this is such a time.   A thousand AMEN’s to this post from The True Ecclesia.

Originally posted on The True Ecclesia:

So goes the way of the fetus. That fearfully and wonderfully created child; unique in all the universe. How is it that a supposedly enlightened people should not readily grasp that which reveals itself continually in the beauty and diversity of the natural world that surrounds us?

Yet the debate to define the viability of life rages with no apparent end readily discernible. But for all the verbal badinage and berating of opposing views, one issue I’ve not heard debated or discussed is the undeniably critical element of environment to the viability of an unborn child.

Environment is so crucial to the proper development of life; both plant and animal, that nature programs often spend a great deal of time pointing out the positive and negative effects environment can have on a given species and how that even minor changes in environment can have devastating, even detrimental effects resulting in…

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The Day I Learned to Dispatch.

Written By:  MacKenzie Dowlearn

It’s been a very hot and depressing couple of weeks.  This actually started about a month and a half ago, when an enormous heat wave came to Arkansas.  Before that, we were actually having a rather mild summer for this area.  But now everything has changed.

Allow me to explain.  Daytime summer temperatures in our area of central Arkansas are usually between 90 and 105 degrees, and the summer weather starts around mid-April.  So it was a pleasant surprise when the temperature was no higher than 90 untill late June.  But recently, the bank thermometers have been giving readings in the hundreds from noon until evening.  This means our rabbits need almost constant attention to be kept cool and safe.

But even with ice, shade, and misters, there is the ever-present chance that a rabbit will be lost to the cruel Arkansas heat.  This is exactly what has been happening recently.  A couple of weeks ago, the sun had made it so oppressive that it was a chore to go outside.  On one of the routine checkups to the rabbit holes,  My brother Joel noticed that a junior and one young kit were exhibiting signs of heat stroke.

They were unable to walk,  barely responsive to sight, sound and touch, they were weak, and listless. They were also breathing very heavily through their mouths, which is an instant red flag.  We took them inside and immediately bathed their bodies and ears in tepid water, being carefull not to dip their heads.  This is a way to cool them down without injuring them, or putting them into shock.  Then we placed them in front of a box fan and supplied them with water from a dropper.

We proceeded to do all we could to save the rabbits, but it was evident that the heat had taken its toll on their minds and bodies.  Dad would not be home from work for another hour and a half, so it was left up to me to make a decision.  I realized that the kindest thing I could do would be to put the poor animals out of their misery.

The safest and most humane method is the so-called “broom-stick” method. You can find this at Rudolph’s Rabbit Ranch, or by clicking HERE .  I used this on the junior, and you can rest assured that this is quick and virtually painless.  The kit was dispatched with a quick twist of the head.  I cleaned the junior, but was doubtful of the quality of my work.  It turns out, Dad said I did it perfectly!  Included  HERE is an excellent tutorial of how to clean a rabbit, from survival resources. To be a good steward, I gave the kit to a friend of mine to use as natural sustenance for his snakes. It is a good idea to have an enclosed, private area for dispatching your rabbits, like a shed or barn.

I will tell you, while writing this blog post (which my Mom considers my keyboarding and creative writing class) another rabbit has succumbed to the heat. I was able to make a quick and appropriate assessment, and move on from there.  I feel like I’ve matured some, and learned a lot these past few days.  Right now I am looking forward to my life on the farm, and will confront any challenges that arise with confidence.

Food On The Farm: Squirrel or Rabbit or Chicken & Dumplings

Our freezer full of rabbit ice bottles

I know you might be sick of hearing about our heatwave especially since everyone is experiencing hotter temperatures than normal, but it has kept us busy with the rabbits ensuring that they are cool; it is a continuous process of replacing ice bottles and misting them with spray bottles (we don’t have an automated system like  some others do).  Once it hits 90 we are in cooling mode; the hotter it gets the more frequently we have to check on and cool the rabbits.  Since the weather was to be considerably cooler this weekend we planned to get away each day, at least for a couple of hours, for some family time in the out-of-doors; fishing Saturday, squirrel hunting Sunday morning.

We all slept in Saturday morning because everyone really needed the rest.  Once we had some coffee and were finally up and around we grabbed the poles and headed out to fish.  After a moderately harrowing ride (we let the 14-year-old drive) we finally made it to our fishin’ hole and within 15 minutes of arriving at the lake each one of the guys had hooked something; Mac a Grass Bass, Joel a Tree Trout, Charley a Limb Brim.  There were lots of hazards out there.

 While the men folk fished I hooked a bit differently as I sat in the shade of my pop up canopy and crocheted.

I had wanted to make these for years but never got around to it, decided to try them today.  Of course I changed the pattern considerably, not wanting to weave in the 8 ends that would remain if crocheted per the Lionbrand Pattern; my adaptation leaves only 2 ends.  One day I’ll get around to writing out my version, well… maybe.

The guys kept fishing for a while but only caught some tiny crappie.  While they may have been disappointed that their catch was nowhere  near the haul they had last time they went fishing

Boys and Blue Gill (some Red Ear) – 88 fish

we really did enjoy the cooler weather, the leisure time, and the fellowship as we cracked jokes, laughed, made up songs and drank iced tea. 

We ended our fishing trip at  Mean Pig BBQ known for its Shut Up Juice, featured on Man Vs Food.  Joel (our chef in the making) has been wanting to eat there since we watched that particular episode and since it was on our way home (and we were ravenous by the time we got close to it) we stopped in.  None of us were courageous enough (or perhaps it is stupid enough) to try the Shut Up Juice, though Joel was considering it (you have to be 18 to do so though and you have to sign a waiver – now I LOVE spice food but that’s a bit ridiculous); instead Joel ordered a half rack of ribs.  Everyone else ate large sandwiches with hot bbq sauce and slaw.  Mac said it was the best bbq he has ever eaten.  I would probably rank it third; CD’s holiday ribs being 1st and Bubba’s being 2nd in my book. 

Sunday was squirrel hunting for the boys, they have been begging Charley to take them for weeks.

The men off hunting meant more crochet time for me.  It also meant squirrel and dumplings for dinner.


After the game and the guys were cleaned, and the soup was put on it was worship time; not only do we home school and have a home business but we are currently home-churching. 

After worship and a nap it was time to finish making dinner.  While I am not a big fan of squirrel myself all of the guys like it; if squirrel isn’t your favorite either you can adapt the recipe for rabbit or chicken.

Squirrel or Rabbit or Chicken & Dumplings

4-3 squirrel or 1 and a 1/2 rabbits or half of a chicken cleaned and dressed (you could substitute left over chopped or shredded meat as well)

4 cups water (or stock of choice)

4 beef bullion cubes (for the squirrel) or 4 chicken bullion cubes (for rabbit or chicken)

1 tsp black pepper

1 tsp thyme

1/2 Tbls minced garlic

1/2 tsp Louisiana Hot Sauce (optional)

1 bay leaf

2 cups Flour (we use half wheat and half white or white wheat

1/2 tsp baking soda

3 Tbls butter or shortening or schmaltz (we prefer the butter)

3/4 cup liquid (we have been known to use plain water, milk, and buttermilk – they all work)


Place meat into the crock pot with water/stock, bullion, pepper, thyme, and garlic; cover and cook on high for 4 hours turning meat once if bone in.

Once meat is cooked thoroughly transfer broth to another pot and place on stove; debone meat and add bit size pieces to the pot.  Bring broth to a boil and add hot sauce.


Combine flour and baking soda in a bowl; cut in butter/shortening until mixture resembles coarse meal.  Add milk, stirring with fork (or fingers-that’s what I do) until dry ingredients are moistened.

Turn dough out on a well floured surface and knead 4-5 times. Roll dough to 1/4 inch thickness and cut into 1/2″ pieces (I use a pizza cutter). 

Drop dumplings into broth.  Reduce  heat to medium and cook for 8-10 minutes stirring occasionally.


And while you are allowing your meal to cool click HERE to see how you can enter our August GIVEAWAY.  Only 3 more days left before we draw the winner.

 “And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” Mark 1:17










Miscellaneous Music and a Hodge Podge of Handicrafts

My Baby-faced Beau during some rare leisure time – obviously not a summer photo

I must begin with Praise and Thanksgiving; the temperature has not even reached 90 yet today and it is past noon!  Hallelujah!!!  This is such a reprieve and a huge blessing especially since it takes some stress off of our herd which in turn means we are less stressed.  In regards to this matter I also have to thank my dear, sweet, beloved husband for scrimping and saving his handyman earnings to purchase a new window unit; one of ours conked out last week and we have been enduring mid 80′s in the house for about seven days.  We are now in the low 70′s!  I love my guy; what a hard worker and good provider. 

Now that it is so much cooler in the house everyone feels like being more productive and creative.  MacKenzie decided to do some alterations on clothing last night; he is much more fashion conscious than any other member of the family as many teenage boys are.  Since his physic has elongated and thinned out (favoring Charley) he desires a more tailored look to his wardrobe.  I am not a seamstress by any stretch of the imagination and being practacle as I am I  don’t personally desire that my clothes fit just so, therefore he has had to learn to modify his attire himself.  

I taught the boys basic sewing skills when they were younger and MacKenzie has really started putting them to use to achieve the style that he wants.  Last night he asked how to shorten jeans “without making them look like mom had fixed your pants”.  I remembered THIS Pinterest pin; he went to the site, followed the directions and is now very pleased with his “new” jeans especially after distressing them. 

I am proud of his effort, his resourcefulness, and his frugality.  What other teenage boy do you know that tailors his own clothes?  This actually isn’t even the most impressive thing he has sewn, he has made several “Frontier’s Man” shirts similar to THIS one from Jas. Townsend & Son Inc.; he uses them when he goes hunting.  Sorry no pics, he has grown out of all of them and has since given them away.   

Not only has Mac been sewing but he and Charley have been working on making buttons from shotgun shell brass; MacKenzie read about it in Hunting Gear You Can Make by John Weiss published by Outdoor Life. 

I thought this was ingenious.  I brain-stormed and told them they could also make rings, earrings, pendants, and cuff links; we’ll see what they end up doing.  This will be one of their submissions to the fair, ir will be their recycled contribution.

Joel is also working on a fair entry; he is crocheting a pair of fingerless, ribbed gloves to use during hunting season this year.  My lefty, who has managed to learn to crochet as a righty (because I am not adept enough to teach left-handed crochet) has very even stitches and does a fabulous job at my prefered handicraft. 

Joel also continues to work on teaching himself the violin and is improving daily.  He has also written two new, original violin compositions; he and MacKenzie get their musical talents from Charley ( I can carry a tune and I won’t make your ears bleed with my vocals but I can’t make much more than a joyful noise) all three gifted by the Lord. 

In their quest to continually hone their musical abilities the boys come across all types of interesting music; a few months ago it was Lindsey Stirling, the Hip-Hop violinist.  Lindsey’s newest piece is a rockin’ cover of Phantom Of The Opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber (only one of my favorite musical scores).  Of her original works the dubstep Crystallize and Shadows are perhaps my favorite.  She has stupendous medleys that include Zelda, Lord of the Rings, Skyrim ft. Peter Hollens and marvelous covers of Rhianna’s We Found Love ft. Alisha Popat,  Bruno Mars’ Grenade ft. Alex Boye, Niki Minaj’s Starship ft. Megan Nicole; and so much more fantastic music.  This week the boys came across The Piano Guys; take a look at their cover of  What Makes You Beautiful by One Direction; amazingly creative musicianship.  Then there’s the dramatic, campy, techno-cello rendition of the Star Wars Theme, Cello Wars; a bit of camp keeps things fun.  Or how about the brilliant Michael Meets Mozart; or the masterful  Bourne Vivaldi .  And then there is the lively rendition of Pachelbel’s Canon in D called Rockebel’s Canon; Oh, and the heavenly medley of 5 different melodies from the 4 movements of Beethoven’s 5th called Beethoven’s 5 Secrets, and magnificent piano solo of All of Me , and the rousing Game Day.  I could go on and on as The Piano Guys have an unbelievably fabulous repertoire which includes more original music as well as renditions of the Peanuts Theme, Somewhere Over The Rainbow, Pirates of the Caribbean, Carol of the Bells and so much more.  As I pointed out previously I have no musical gift to speak of but I know good music when I hear it, this is NOT good music it is GREAT music.  Check out Lindsey Stirling and The Piano Guys.

While the boys surf through The Piano Guys’ videos I have been working on submissions for the fair; have completed two items, one whimsical

Sundae Beanie

and one traditional. 

Irish Crochet Wedding Choker

I am also busy attempting to promote our home based business, both the Farm & Rabbitry and Handmade & Homespun, our handicrafts business.  In regards to promoting both we are having a GIVEAWAY, Click HERE for information on how to enter and what the winner will receive.

As you can see, we have an array of interests, a real mish-mash of hobbies that make for a hodge podge of handicrafts.

“You have an abundance of workmen: stonecutters, masons, carpenters, and all kinds of craftsmen without number, skilled in working gold, silver, bronze, and iron.  Arise and work! The Lord be with you!”  1 Chronicles 22:15-16


Before we get caught up in handicrafts for fair and craft show season we are going to have a GIVEAWAY.

Who doesn’t like to win free stuff?  Especially a unique, handcrafted, gift item?

The prize for this giveaway is this one of a kind, crocheted, rabbit scarf.

Though definitely unnecessary during this summer heatwave, this quaint garment will keep you cozy and warm once old man winter starts to bluster.  You are sure to gain favorable attention and perhaps a question or two when you were this fun, item. 

*Lonokians, this will be a great accessory to wear as you cheer the Jackrabbits to victory during the upcoming football season.

*Rabbit Ranchers/Breeders this is a novel item to show the love you have for the animals that are your hobby/business and beloved pets.

Fashioned from a soft, acrylic boucle yarn, made right here in the Good Ole US of A, this scarf is soft as well as toasty; it can be machine washed in cold water on the gentle cycle and should be laid flat to dry.  Length from paw to paw is over 5 feet.

The contest will be a blind drawing.  To enter do any or all of the following; each separate action gains you a separate chance to win.

1) Follow this blog

2) Follow our sister blog www.handmadeandhomespun.wordpress.com

3) Like the  4D Farm & Rabbitry Facebook Page

4) Like the Handmade & Homespun Facebook Page

5) Leave a positive comment on either or both of the blogs and either or both of the Facebook Pages; each comment (up to four separate posts) gains you another entry. 


Drawing will take place on August 16th.  The winner will be announced on the 16th by posts here as well as on our Facebook Pages, so check back on the 16th to see if you have won. 

*Postage will be paid to the lower 48 states.

You only have a week to enter so hop to it!

“I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus”. Philippians 3:14


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