Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Farm Camp Day of Giving

Hi, everyone! My name is Blake, Denise’s godson. I have known the Hammonds quite literally since I was born, and over the years our families have grown to have a very strong relationship with one another.

Recently I had the wonderful privilege of helping out for a very special day of the Hammonds’ Farm Camp. Throughout the summer, Denise has been holding several three-day children’s Farm Camps at her lovely barn. During the Camp, kids get a feel for life on a farm through various fun activities and presentations. There are usually about a dozen attendees. However, on the day I was present, Denise kindly welcomed onto her farm forty-two campers from A Child’s Place, a wonderful organization whose goal is to strengthen and enrich the lives of homeless children. It was a super-mega-awesome day of Farm Camp with three days’ worth of activities condensed into one fun-tastic day.

Even though the forty-two children were accompanied by counselors from A Child’s Place, there was still a large need for volunteers to help manage the stations that the campers rotated to and to keep track of the many happenings going on. There were several minors that were more than happy to volunteer: Hunter, Colton, Mary Charlotte, Miles, Allie, Rachel, Gabby, Allison, Hayden, and Dylan. They were all excellent! I was the resident “reporter” for the day (or “tourist,” as I was dubbed by my brother), snapping photos of the campers’ activities and taking mental notes so that I could bring you this report.

The day began early as the campers arrived. They parked out front, so the sight of them all walking up the long driveway was quite a spectacle. Their smiling faces and infectious happiness set the mood wonderfully for the rest of the day; you could just feel it in the air that it was going to be a great experience, for both them and us.

After introductions were made and the general rules for the day were gone over, the campers got right down to business. There was no wasting time around here! Everyone got right to work, helping give the farm animals their breakfast of hay and grain. Several children were a bit afraid of the animals, but I think the fact that the first thing we did was feed and interact with the animals helped break down the scare factor barrier. They were able to see that (for the most part) the animals won’t bother you unless you bother them.

Next it was time to break up into six different groups so that each group could begin to rotate to different stations around the farm. First up was a presentation by the farrier, whose job title is one that I hadn’t heard of before. A farrier is a horse expert who, for the Hammonds at least, is in charge of changing the horses’ horseshoes.

I didn’t realize it was such a long process to change out each horse’s shoe. However, the amount of time is necessary because each shoe has to be specially fitted to each horse’s specific foot shape. The horseshoe can’t be simply slipped on, it has to be tried on, then molded (in a 2,500 degree “oven”!), then tried on again, and then possibly molded some more if needed. Even though you might think that the horse would begin screaming and running around at the moment that its foot meets a literally burning-hot shoe, the horse didn’t even flinch!

I also didn’t know that horses go through their shoes so quickly . . . they get a new pair about every five weeks!

The farrier also clipped the horse’s hooves (with a gadget sort of like a giant toenail clipper). The children enjoyed giving the clipped-off parts of the hooves to the Hammonds’ dog Buddy as a treat; he loved them. Yuck!

After the farrier it was time to visit the veterinarian. The vet explained what goes into a general check-up appointment for a horse. He then let campers use his stethoscope to listen to one of the horse’s heartbeat!

Next up we headed next door to see the Hammonds’ neighbor, Mary. She too has a farm, again with its fair share of critters. In the barn, after a brief break for popsicles, we visited Mary’s horses and got to feed them some apple treats. We got a peek at a parrot, who takes a liking to screaming loudly and chewing up telephone books. Outside, we got to look at a llama (no, I’m not kidding!), as well as several rabbits, guinea pigs, cats, and geese. I had never seen geese like the ones here; I’m used to seeing the ones at the park with smooth gray feathers. These geese, though, had white feathers that were sticking out every which way. Interesting!

Our next station was decorating our very own horseshoe! Mary Charlotte, Hunter, Hayden, and Dylan were on hand to demonstrate to us the proper way to clean and brush a horseshoe. Then each camper selected a color to spray paint their horseshoe with!

Then it was time to go to the front lawn for horseback riding. Allie, Gabby, Allison, and Rachel were the handlers for this activity and assisted campers with ascending and descending the horses and additionally escorted each horse as the campers rode. Again, some children were a bit hesitant around the horses, but all of them conquered their fear and had a great time riding the horses. Some even hopped on for a second turn!

The final station was animals 101 with Colton and Miles. Everyone was able to pet the goats and even stop by to visit the baby pig. We also got to see a donkey. Miles pointed out to us the naturally-formed cross shape that the donkey has on its back that is a different color of fur than the rest of its body. This means that the donkey is a Jerusalem donkey, the very same kind that Jesus rode into Nazareth on. Pretty neat!

Then it was lunchtime! Hooray!

After lunch, it was time to take a hike! (A literal hike; we didn’t have to leave just yet.) We explored the woods (which included a daring jump across the oh-so-scary creek) behind the farm and concluded our journey with an insane water fight!

I stayed out of the water fight action so as to keep the camera safe, but I was just about the only one that shied away from the water. The campers were not afraid to get wet in the least bit! Everyone was soaked by the time the water fight was over.

Sadly, our day of Farm Camp was just about over, but not before one last surprise. Three horses and one pony were escorted into the driveway. What was going on here? Denise explained to everyone that we are all precious to God and that includes are handprints, which He formed to each be uniquely different from any other. (Psalm 139:14-16 (NIV) states “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”)

On that note, everyone got a small splatter of paint placed onto their hands, rubbed their hands together, and placed their handprints in paint on the horses. It was quite something to see the collage of prints once everyone was finished, each tiny hand representing not only a fun day at Farm Camp, but an adored child of the Lord.

Lastly, each camper was given a delicious cupcake before they headed out. I honestly didn’t know what to expect out of the day, but the entire experience was a very gratifying opportunity. Not only was it enjoyable to see the behind-the-scenes workings of a farm, but for this special version of Farm Camp it was extremely fulfilling to know that I was helping make a difference, if only for a day, in the lives of these children, some of which might not even know where they were going to sleep that night. To see the joy and wonderment on their faces as they rode horses, fed donkeys, and proudly displayed their horseshoes for all to see was a humbling experience that I will cherish for a long time.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Farm Camps 2010

What a blast we are having at Farm Camp 2010! Feeding, cleaning and bathing horses, worming goats and hiking on trails... what could be any better?!
If you have a child who loves animals, wants to be a future farm owner or vet... this camp is for them! My vet comes 1 day and the kids learn about the animals and actually participate in the vet checks. My Farrier comes and the kids help shoe the horses and see what it takes to be in this profession! HARD PHYSICAL WORK!
The camp is only 3 days and we start early in the morning, 8:30am -1pm.
The dates for each upcoming week for our camps are as follows:
June 14th, 21st July 12th and July 19th and Aug 9th. If there is enough interest then I will host an additional Aug. 16th camp.
For more info. please e-mail me at farmcamps@gmail.com

Friday, May 7, 2010

Amazing Horses

Tonight I was surrounded by great talent. The show "Cavalia" was here in Charlotte, NC and it was simply outstanding! I went with a bunch of beautiful girls, (whom I call, "barn rats") my son Colton, my niece and her fellow "barn rats" and my sweet mother-in-law, Eleanor. What talent and dedication these trainers and athletes showed. From the moment the man on the Cello began until the last parade of horses, we were amazed.
I would encourage anyone reading to check it out! You will not be disappointed!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

24 Hrs

Well, it has been over 24 hrs. since I last saw, smelled and touched my sweet Decaza. Before we walked into the lower pasture, I cut his tail so that I could have something physically tangible to remember his smell. It has been really tough emotionally as well as physically and I wait for the day when it doesn't hurt my heart so bad.
The aftermath of burrying him is almost as hard as when we lied him down beside his grave. I thought, as we lied together on the cold pasture ground, that I would never heal from this deep wound and loss. I told Decaza I would see him on the other side and asked him to find my other animals and remind them I loved them! Once again, I thought, I will not be able to move forward for quite some time.
If you have ever lost a loved one,(animals do count), time is an amzing thing. In just 24 hrs. I have felt a lifting in my spirit. I rode my horse, Piper, with Colton today and we just talked and enjoied the beauty of the day. This was a beautiful ride together and a memory I will cherish.
As one life passes, God always seems to send peace in another soul. Today, it came from my son and from my horse Piper... both are His and from Him! To Him I give praises and ask for His strength!
Thanks for caring- D

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Seasons of change

Such a time is this.... how did it become 2010? I still remember partying with the Taylor family at the beach for the millennium... year 2000! Crazy how fast life passes us by regardless if we are engaged or disconnected with it, nonetheless, time is flying!
I was especially reminded of this fact while talking to my cousin yesterday when she asked about my boys. I did the typical run down of events and stopped in mid sentence when I told her Hunter would be in High School next year. How did I, (Denise the forever 25 year old young woman) become old enough (41)to have a rising High School young man?
In this life, we will have many trials as the apostle James reminds us... yes we will face changes some good some bad and some down right terrible, but, in this life, we will face change. I believe it is how we embrace the changes, how we use our faith and how we glorify God in the trials that matters most.
We here at the Hammond farm are facing a very difficult trial regarding Decaza's health. Many of you have prayed for and rejoiced in the mini-miracles regarding Decaza's health. We all realize we have the ability to relieve him of pain at anytime we decide it so.... Our wonderful vet has told us on many occasions to just place the call and he will be here.
I have been placing a daily (hourly) prayers before the great physician and am left with the understanding that the answer may be a "NO", I believe God may be saying, "NO, Denise,allow Decaza to come to me and glorify me in the process". So, it is with tears in my eyes and pains in my heart that we decided to place the call and will watch our beautiful Decaza move from this life on earth and into the arms of his creator. I know he will live pain free with his creator. For God says, He loves his creatures big and small he loves them one and all....
This week we remember the beauty and strength of such an animal. We cherish his sweet and funny attitude most horses do not display. We will feed him candy canes and jolly ranchers and brush his tail and kiss his muzzle. This week we will glorify God by praising and crying with Him, for these years with Decaza and the many life stories that were birthed because of him. We celebrate God's beautiful creation and the creative design that our God possesses! Because of God's artistic design and love for us as humans, I have been blessed once again! To Him I give praise and glory as He upholds me during this trial.
If anyone is reading this and would like to come by to love on Decaza one last time, we welcome you here to our beautiful farm that the Lord has given us! Blessings my friend!
To Him who will never leave or forsake us, I give the glory and praise. Thanks you Lord for hearing my prayers and always bending down to see me eye to eye, heart to heart. Psalm 116 - Denise

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Memories for the Future

Last night was one of the coldest nights in Charlotte history. As my son Colton and his friend Rachel raced to the barn at 5:30 for night time feeding, they were reminded just how cold it actually was. The wind blew and stung their ears and fingers. Despite the fact they were bundled beyond recognition, the cold pierced their bodies to their bones.
Within 15mins. they were inside trying to convince me to bring the goats inside the house. My initial reaction was, "ABSOLUTLY NOT" but as all good and convincing kids do.... they stated the reasons why, acted out the chilled goats behaviors and.... they changed my mind to a resounding "YES" and there you have it..... I/We oficially live in a barn!
They were so excited and so was I. I was able to accomplish one of my 2010 New Years Resolutions. I want to foster and cherish how wonderful each of my children's gifts are. I want to enjoy their passions and allow them to grow in them.
So, check one off my list for Colton. Must this go on all year?
Welcome to my world! Happy New Year and may we all say a few more "yeses" with our children.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

All Things New!

All things new!
As we close out an amazing summer, I look to the Lord for direction and leadership. My boys are starting school, Kenny is in a new job territory and I am starting a new Bible study and Personal Training schedule. New beginnings are exciting yet blurry; new territories ignite a spark of creativity and goal setting within, yet often fear of failure lingers in the back of my mind. I personally would love to set new spiritual, social, physical and mental goals without any fear of failure just thoughts and actions based on success.
The Lord reminds us in Jer. 29:11, that He knows our future and it is one filled with hope and success. I choose to trust and each day take the next step in His plans. Just take the step that is in front of you and walk upright in the trust that He is with you wherever you go!
Happy new beginnings!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

We are truly meant for the valley. My family just spent our Spring Break in the most beautiful, quiet mountain retreat; Leatherwood Mountains. These mountains are formed between a long and beautiful meadow; where streams run and deer graze. It is quite a special place!
The valley here, is quite beautiful, enjoyable and peaceful. It is where my kids play football, jump in the streams, catch minnows and crayfish together. Kenny and I ride our horses here, picnic and sit together soaking up the sun....I love the valley! I love being quiet and reflective, it is a side of me, my family and I rarely get to experience. I love watching and listening to the sounds of God's symphony around me while in the valley. Yup, I love the valley and I was meant for it.
But, there is nothing like the mountain top experience. Our house sits at the top of the mountain and it has quite the views. As the wind whips through the trees and the hawks fly we can hear new sounds, see new sights and experience new emotions. I tell you this, I was meant for the mountain top!
Isn't this life, we move from mountain tops to valley experiences. The valley offers experiences that the mountain top cannot. We travel through the valley and get to see and feel things that the peaks cannot offer us. We can run in the valley yet while at the top we actually have to hike a bit more cautiously, as the fall could be fatal.(Pride before the fall) This is a new perspective I am sure but it holds a bit of truth when compared to our lives. While in the valleys of life, know this, we call on God with a deeper more heart felt need and respect. We listen more, yet are relational. We can be very still yet we keep moving. We actually spend a lot of time there, and it becomes familiar yet remains mysterious. We can sit and listen, often humbled and learn while traveling in the meadow. The good news is, we travel, we move, we learn while we are there.
When at the top, we usually experience great emotional highs that often exempt God or at the very least, just invite Him to join us in our elation and new experience. Don't get me wrong, I love the top of the mountain. I love what it brings my soul. I actually find myself brought to tears at it's beauty and power. We have to keep perspective however when we are at the top... egos in check and pride aside! God is quite amazing, as He designed it all and dwells in it all, we just have to be reminded more when we are at the top!
God's word reminds us, He will never leave us or forsake us, for He is with us wherever we go. I think He'd want me to remind you of that truth... I know He reminds me of it quite often. So, whether you are traveling in the meadows of life or standing at the top of a mountain, know this, He is there and remains very close!
As I write this, I ask you to pray for those in the meadows of life. I specifically ask for you to pray for Melissa Taylor and her family. Becky Nunn, her mother, and dear friend of mine, has stage 4 cancer and new cancer growths elsewhere. She is in the valley and experiencing new sights and sounds; new emotions and fears and is traveling through it very slowly and painfully. This story is one of many I know life will offer us, but one we will all grow from and learn to trust more, because of. God's plan is beyond what we can see or hear or understand but truth remains and is never far away. Jesus said, I am the way, the truth and the life. Truth has a name that we can all call on while we travel this life of mountains and valleys.
Blessings to you all ... soar, walk, run, listen, remain aware and draw near to God.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Off and Running

If you are new to my blog, Hang on because there are many for you to read through in my archives below. Now that should get you a bit excited or exhausted, you can decide, but nonetheless, WELCOME!
I am off to Ga. in the morning and truly, am ready to see my mom and help her in anyway possible. Her accident was one that made us all stop the pace of Christmas break... which was coming to an end. The ringing in of the new year was much more reflective now that she lie in intensive care with a broken neck, multiple bruises and a wounded spirit. However, the memory that remains from this ordeal is of a conversation she had with her surgeon just before she went into surgery. Connie, in her slurred speech, made eye contact with her surgeon saying, "Dr., I have been praying for you" and he replied without hesitation, "Connie, I have been praying for you too, let's do this thing" and off they went into surgery. This type of confidence and peace can only come from our divine creator. The One who sees is the One who knows and with that we are reassured of our futures. For so many of us, (us included) our futures are unknown and our paths seem to be hidden by some fog; but I am confident that, "the Lord gives wisdom and peace and from His mouth comes knowledge and understanding" Prov. 2:6 So, as I travel tomorrow I will trust in whatever he lays in my path and pray that I have ears and eyes to understand I am in His presence.
Blessings to all this new and wonderful 2009

Friday, January 2, 2009

This is a picture of Jessie our goat who is 6 weeks old and in recovery. We lost his brother "Checkers" on Dec. 28th and now Jessie is fighting back! Please read below an update regarding my mom's accident and her scheduled surgery today.
Blessings! Denise