Happy New Year from Ljubomir Farms!

 

We had a photographer come out to the ranch while we had a chance to get all the kids in the picture.

Hope everyone is enjoying the start of the new year.

The photographer is a homeschool mom. Her and her husband have a goat and cow ranch (very hard work) and this is an extra income generator for them.

https://www.tancymcdanielphotography.com/

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Winter finally arrives at Ljubomir

Since the first snow that hit us in October, we have been waiting for the big one. It has snowed numerous times here, but its always a one to two inch dusting that is gone the next day. Finally, we got some real snow a couple days ago and although we did not have a white Christmas, its still everything we imagined it would be.

Here’s a look at what Christmas and the week after looked like around here. We had the traditional family around the tree opening presents in the morning. In this particular case it was nice because the twenty two year old one was home so we had all of them under the same roof.

I snapped one on Christmas Eve that had everyone in it:

The “littles” decorated sugar cookies to leave out for Santa:

The brakes on Mychaels car started rubbing steel on steel so I got to do that on Christmas morning.

We picked up some hay bales in the snow.

I went with Mychael to pick up some stuff we wanted once the after Christmas sales started. If your wife does her hair and make up just to hang out and run errands with you, keep her.

Went ice fishing with friends in 2 degree weather.

And here’s a tech tip on what I am having to do with my diesel every night, or risk it not starting in the morning. (It generally gets down into the negatives at night now).

Make SURE the block heater is plugged in AS WELL AS have the trickle charger going on one of the two batteries. Alternate batteries every night.

Finally, here are three videos I took. The last one was supposed to be an inspirational running one and it just ended up sounding lame.

Hope everyone enjoyed Christmas as much as we did. Have a great New Year.

 

A walk through thirteen Ljubomir Christmases

Looking through the Christmas album, I find these tell a pretty amazing story. We met at Christmas time 2006, and one of our first dates was to Mychael’s work Christmas party.

This year will be thirteen Christmases together, and it’s been a blessed life, and one we both think of as undeserved.

It’s interesting to watch it chronologically, and see the family grow.

Our fist Army Christmas ball. Mychael is “out to here” with Kenna.

The following year, Kenna starts a tradition in our family. Suspicion of the big guy in red.

That year, Mychael worked Christmas eve (hence the nursing uniform) and we opened presents and went to church when she go home.

Chrnistmas morning church

Christoipher’s first serious hunting knife

The following year, we moved to a new duty station, and Santa had changed his entire look

It was also the year of the pointiest tree ever

Kenna crashes after opening presents

Baking Christmas cookies

One year, I came home from Afghanistan during R&R and we got to go to a hotel (alone) and go see Austin Ballets “The Nutcracker”

Salado Christmas Tree Farm. Christopher had a huge bandage on his finger from the neighbors dog who bit him.

David shows up, and this is one of my favorite pictures of him. Salado closed, so we tried Silo Tree Farm

And Christopher took over as the guy who cuts down the tree

That was the year we bought the big house that we lived in for almost seven years

Kenna did not understand what was in this box, but once I built the doll house she loved it

I started taking pictures of Mychael hanging tree lights

Snapped this one during a photo shoot for Christmas cards in the woods behind the house

You can see me in the background trying to hold up David

Aleksandar appears for the first time, only three months old

And it was out first Orthodox Christmas

Another Christmas ball, San Antonio

We had temporary duty for those two years, so we had to find a different tree farm, again

More of the tree light elf

Gratuitous picture of David “helping” me tie the tree down, another year.

I tried to recreate the magic of the cowboy hat David picture with Aleks, but this one is just not as good

Aleks takes suspicion of Santa to a new level, this time its just pure terror

Super cool filter for fireplace photo, another year

David–first gun that actually shoots a projectile (darts)

During the intermission at their sisters Nutcracker debut as a reindeer

And now, here we are, about a week out from Christmas number thirteen.

Aleksandar, the youngest boy, is still very suspicious of Santa.

…very suspicious.

David, has reached a level of not being so “anti-help” and actually gets some things done when I need him to.

In order to jam it into our temporary arrangement, the tree is much smaller.

The Montana sky is more breath taking than I imagined even in my dreams.

And my wife is still my dream girl.

Here’s to hoping all our readers have blessed Christmas season, and if we don’t see you on Christmas day–Hristos Se Rodi!

To finish off as we started this post, with another work Christmas party, what a difference a few years makes.

 

 

 

Getting it ready, slowly

I can’t remember the last time it took me this long to get the lights up. It’s usually something I do Thanksgiving weekend. Here it is December 8th, and I just got it done. Also, we are going a little subdued this year, so it wasn’t even that hard.

If I had a taller ladder and money for WAY more lights, it would be lit up Clark Griswold style.

I had a little help from the blonde kid that lives with us:

And the little tree I cut down on the ranch had to be trimmed even smaller to fit on the TV stand. But I think it still looks pretty good:

Since the Orthodox Nativity Fast is a little longer than the western Advent season, we started using this book from Elissa Bjelitich. It is an Orthodox children’s survey of the relevant scriptures, to be read daily. It brings you to an understanding of how each story fortells, in some way of the coming of the Christ child. As an adult Christian, the stories are not new to me. But the format is great and I must admit to finding a little vicarious living through my children, for whom these stories are mostly new, is fun. There is a question and answer section at the end of each story (only my 9 year old really engages in that part) and it comes with a tin of ornaments–each one corresponding to the story you just read. Mychael bought this little tree to hang them on.

Mychael and I hope all our readers are slowing down to enjoy the season.

Edit: I just came across this slick video that Montana Shed Center made of the delivery and assembly of my barn a few months ago. They  even came back and took some aerial footage so you can see our horses, donkey and some of our vehicles.

Christmas drawing near

Scott has wanted to cut down a Christmas tree on his own property for pretty much his whole adult life, and this year, he finally got to do it.

And I am pretty sure this is going to be a family tradition that he will never let go. We have thousands of trees on the ranch.

As things cool down, we are starting to feel like we actually live in a place that has seasons.

And we are having to stay stocked up on wood, in case we have an unscheduled power outage.

We’ve sort of settled in on what is going to be our religious routine. There is an OCA (Orthodox Church in America) parish in Bozeman, and they are a thriving community with a lot of children across a very wide age range. We also have several friends who worship there. But we are not willing to give up on our Serbian culture, and the ancient ethnic manifestation of our faith in Christ, which is celebrated in full at the Butte Serbian congregation. The OCA is on the Gregorian calendar (which means they celebrate Christmas and so forth on the same days as everyone in the west) and the Serbs are on the Julian calendar. This is actually going to make it convenient, because we will celebrate one Christmas with our Bozeman friends, and then celebrate “Serbian Christmas” two weeks later, with all the cultural aspects represented. Here is our oldest posing for a picture with Fr. David of Saint Anthony’s in Bozeman. The picture is for her online Orthodox religious class.

The grocery store here is great. They even let you suggest things that aren’t normally carried, and they will order it for you. We got sweet soy sauce that way.

Scott has been growing out his beard and wonders if it is time to trim it yet.

My new favorite thing is playing with it an burying my face in it. I think it should go a little longer. It has red from his Irish side and a little grey which drives me crazy.

And finally, we got a much needed “date night” which meant going to our friends house for dinner and coffee.

We love it here. We have not fully decorated the barn and the tree, but as soon as we do, we will put it up. Take care.

Silly man

Sometimes, you just have to be silly in order to get through some of the stress of things. My husband excels at this skill, and with all the stuff that has gone right, wrong and everything in between for these last two months, now is a good time to share a little.

The strange noises that have been emanating from the goat stalls downstairs would make any sane person think there was a fight or a “Friday the Thirteenth” style horror scene going on down there. Turns out our billy “Shamus” is the one causing all the ruckus. So, of course, Scott went down to film it (and make fun of him).

Scott says the title of the video is “When she’s just not that into you, man.”

He took the three biggest ones on a nature hike around our property, and downloaded an app called “iNaturalist” to help identify some of the bushes and trees we have. Scott fancies himself much like the Tom Skeritt character from “A River Runs Through It” who goes on walked with his boys in the Montana woods and explains the world to them.

iNaturalist turned out to be pretty user-unfriendly because you have take a million clear, “professional” quality pictures of the specimen in order for it to come back with an idetification. Scott already knows we have Ponderosa, Douglas Fir, Lodgepole, and several species of Junipers here. So after a few minutes of fiddling with the thing, he just explained it to them. All the boys wanted to do was play superheros and save their sister from the bad guys in the woods. In the front of the group is David, with daddy’s hatchet in his right hand, keeping everyone safe.

The baby stayed home with me.

With the tractor still being down, (several hundred dollars of hay sitting in the rain that we can’t move), some strange things going on with our circuit breakers, and a bunch of other stressors, he still finds time to pose for me for in a picture. He says he was going for “grumpy old army veteran who wants to be left alone on his ranch.”

I’d say he nailed it.

Heaven is a place called Helena

We’ve been here for almost two months, and its time to start singing the praises of the local businesses and proprietors that have made our transition, in some cases, possible at all.

Recall, Montana Shed Center and their subcontractor Riverside Cabins built our absolutely beautiful “barndominium.” Every morning I go for my run, and as I crest the hill that my horses graze on, I see the sun coming up over it. I have to pinch myself.

Ljubomir Farms, approximately 6:30 every morning.

I won’t lie and say that there have been zero issues with it, but that is to be expected. A few minor things here and there, and Bill from Riverside had a crew out to address them. They were proud of their work, and you could tell. They even sent a guy out with a drone to take some aerial photos to use in their own promotional stuff.

I bought a vintage tractor, a 1956 Allis-Chalmers WD45  which, to be honest has had some problems from the start. Transmission went out. (Well, actually it was just the linkage). Front tires were cracked pretty bad and I didn’t notice when I bought it. I hauled it to Grizzly Diesel Service and they were a great help. They had never worked on one of these, and were not able to find the parts. So they fabricated them!

From there, the tractor went to MontanaTire Company to replace the cracked tires. And of course, the age of the tractor proved to be an issue again. When the tire came off, all the JB Weld that was holding the rim together over the years disintegrated into crumbling shards of rust. The rim would not hold a tire and tube (yes, it takes tubes). So they turned me on to Helena Farm Supply, in East Helena. They did not have rims for a 70 year old tractor on hand, but they were able to get them in about a week. So the tractor sat at his place all that time, taking up space, waiting for the rims to come in.

Keep in mind, every one of these places “spotted” me the cash in advance. Montana tire ordered the tires for me over the phone–specialty tires that no one would ever likely need–no credit card, just my name and a promise I would come in to pay for them later.

Helena Farm supply actually FORGOT to bill my card for a couple of days after I picked up the rims.

Mark Heimann is a local farmer/rancher who I started buying hay from. Once I got to know him, I just stop by his place, grab the hay I need and either leave the cash there or settle up later.

Picking up hay at Marks place.

We took the kids to get pumpkins at Johnson’s Nursery where they had a blast. It is small and they gave us some pretty cool jelly jarring techniques for next year when we are ready to start that part of business up again.

Murdoch’s is a chain, and I don’t usually mention stuff like that. However, the one here is outstanding. I’ve been in there 50 times already, and I could tell a story about the helpful and friendly folks there each time. The best was the day I went in and had the baby in my arms. I needed to get about a dozen 50lb bags of horse grain onto carts and pushed out to the truck. The lady that found me in the isle was not big enough to help load, but she carried Kathryn for me the entire time, all the way to the check out stand and out the door.

Some other honorable mentions:

Steve’s Cafe.  Two locations, great food.

Parrot Confectionery. No better candy in town.

Bert and Ernies. Great comfort food, accommodating to people with little kids.

The staff at the tag office for getting plates? Totally normal and nice. The guy who helped me change my drivers license to Montana? Friendly, polite, helpful.

Two months in, and the honeymoon is still on. We love it here.

 

A picture tour of the last few days and travel to Montana.

Retirement party:

Brothers

All of us

“Attention to orders!”

Speech

Kathryn and mommy

Travelling, including the night before with vehicles staged and ready:

Navigator and co-pilot, Faith.

We had to stay in places that accommodate livestock. This was Lubbock, Texas.

Fuel up in Raton, New Mexico.

Blowout number one.

Blowout number two.

And the first couple of weeks. Fencing in several acres for the horses. Building a chicken/duck coop. Purchasing a restored 1956 Allis Chalmers WD45 tractor. Scenes from around the place.

First morning stretch after run.

Fence posts pounded in for pasture.

This is the view from my deck every night.

“New” tractor.

Icon corner

Assembly/install of the new wood burning stove.

Finished chicken run around coop.

There is still so much more to do before the first freeze. There were two blow outs on the trailer. The movers basically dumped all our stuff down in the breezeway of the barndominium. Installing the wood burning stove was weird. It seems like we work 24/7 to get organized and de-cluttered and never get anywhere. The kids have already met their homeschool co-op. Our new church family brought us food before we even met them.

We are safe and sound. I still can’t believe I live here now.

T minus three days…

On Friday, we will put all of our livestock in the stock trailer. We have already conducted a test run, and they all fit. But before that, here is what happened this past week.

My retirement party was a success. The attendance was a little better than expected and the show of support was  overwhelming. I don’t deserve such friends. We had it at the church, and toasted our farewells with Serbian plumb brandy. And at the end of the night, my youngest daughter decided she wanted to gnaw on the various awards and devices on my uniform. I said “knock yourself out, sweetheart. This is the last time I will be wearing this thing, maybe forever.”

Looks like candy, I guess.

The next day, we went out to breakfast with the company that remained from the party, including my friend Rebekah from high school, and my brother Alex. (He’s the one my son Aleksandar is named after). I snapped a shot of them all in deep conversation, with all four of my children at the table at the same time. It was a satisfying moment.

My truck has been in the shop for SIX WEEKS and I just got it back yesterday. Near the end, we were actually considering a last minute trade-in for something else. In fact, I had it hauled from the dealership that was having trouble diagnosing it to a smaller dealership with older, more seasoned diesel mechanics. In the end, it cost me 3200 bucks for something that was truly about a 600 dollar job. The lesson here is, all the sophisticated diagnostics in the world don’t mean crap if you don’t have experienced people to think outside the box of just reading codes and looking in manuals. She is back on the farm and ready for her big livestock pulling trek across country. I even got her washed:

Ljubomir One, prepped for maiden voyage.

It was ALSO Aleksandar’s third birthday, which we might have forgotten, but did not let it slip without a robot birthday cake:

Meanwhile, all the usual mundane and beautiful scenes of life kept on going:

But the big news is all the stuff happening in Montana, while I manage it all from here. The foundation for the barndominium was poured:

The barn pieces were completed and shipped on down the road from Great Falls to Helena:

And assembled yesterday and today:

Those pics were sent to me today from the barn builder.

Oh, and one more thing. The movers came today.

All of that happened in the span of eight days. More to come. Maybe from the road.

 

 

More non-stop crazy in the final push

Over the last couple of weeks, it seems more has happened to move us toward our goal than in the previous five years combined. And all the while, regular life events and memories keep piling up. Our youngest, Kathryn Milica was baptized last Sunday after church:

I stayed up very late the night before sewing both my daughters dresses for the occasion. Scott snapped a photo to prove it!

I got mine at the PX on post and it was very inexpensive. Scott loved it and wanted to show it for this post.  I was going for long, flattering and summer(y).

Even though it was very hot, it was a beautiful day with friends and relatives. We will be very sad to leave our church family. The Serbs have adopted me as one of their own and it will break my heart if this is the last we see of them. Of course, mine and the kids Kum (godfather–the man with his wife pictured holding baby at the top) will be bringing his family (our Kumove) to see the place once it is built. Many others have said they want to see it.

Scott had his last day in the army as an active duty officer. His retirement officially begins in September because of saved up or “terminal” leave, but his duties are no more and he has taken the OCP uniform off for the very last time. He got a video of his last salute from an enlisted gate guard. Its pretty anti-climactic, but if you look closely, you can see it got to him as he snaps out the last one.

Meanwhile, I had some pretty painful dental work done a few days ago, but my sweet husband made it feel better while we waited for my prescription.

And finally, the barndomnium is almost complete. The builder sent us a bunch of work-in-progress pics this week.

So close now. Have a great day, and stay cool in this summer heat!