Knolltop Farm Wife

Welcome to my blog! I'm a wife, mother of four and a self-employed freelance writer. I live on a dairy farm with my family and I enjoy sharing our life with family, friends and anyone else who wants to visit the farm. There's no telling what the I will write about from day to day, but hopefully you'll be enriched when you stop by! Have a wonderfully blessed day!

Friday, November 17, 2017

A Predesigned Path I Never Saw Coming

I met him when his father, Mike, became the pastor at our church. He was the same age as our oldest son and just as mischievous. When they were together on the farm, I never knew whether to be thankful they were outside and occupied or worried that they might burn the barn down. Let’s just say there were some broken barn windows because some young boys were having a rock throwing contest.
Our families were close and I loved serving under his father’s leadership. His mom, Debbie and I spent countless hours in prayer over ministry and our families.  And when his father was called to shepherd a flock in Kentucky it was one of the most difficult losses I’ve endured outside of my family. Over the next few years they came back and pastored our church and then left yet again for Tennessee to serve a church and be closer to their family.
Only this time Branden didn’t go with them.
He stayed in Michigan, finished college, married and settled down. Today, he still attends the church where his father took a courageous step to revolutionized corporate worship and bring Believers out of religiosity and into a relationship with Jesus Christ.
While Pastor Mike’s gift was preaching, he couldn’t carry a tune in a bushel basket, bless his heart. But Branden can do that and more as he serves on the worship arts team at Grace Church. He straps on his guitar, stands up to the mic and ushers people into the Throne room as he humbly leads worship. And on occasion, when I’m not out of town, I have the privilege to stand next to Branden and sing with him.
I’ve been singing longer than Branden has been alive. I was singing in church when Branden was in diapers in the nursery with my kids. When I was younger I could memorize all the lyrics to the songs we sang, today, my foggy memory is lucky to remember my own name. I stumble over words, and when asked to lead a song, there are times when I totally mess it up. When these moments happen the feelings of incompetence flood my soul and negative self-talk takes over.
“Why am I still up here singing with these young people?”
“I can’t even remember the words!”
“I’m too old for this.”
“They only let you sing because they are being nice.”
A couple of months ago, this happened again in rehearsal. As the song continued, I looked over at Branden to offer an expression of apology. He met me with a reassuring nod and I could hear Pastor Mike’s voice softly saying, “Keep going, you’re doing fine.” Suddenly, my mistake didn’t seem so awful and I continued with confidence. In that single moment, I saw that once mischievous little boy transform into a man of God with a leadership style that mimicked his daddy’s.
Branden’s daddy passed away a month ago. He was loved and cherished by every single person who knew him. We cried for our loss but celebrated Heaven’s gain.
And now on the Sunday mornings when I serve on the Worship team beside Branden, I marvel at how God has intertwined our lives together. I have the joy of standing next to the little rock-chunking boy turned praise-singing servant following a path that only God could predesign.
I miss Pastor Mike.
I miss my friend Debbie.
But I am grateful for the opportunity to serve alongside their son Branden, and watch him as he grows in stature, honoring his God in service to Him.

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Iowa Wedding

Our family gathered in Decorah, Iowa to witness the marriage of Emily Bicknese and my nephew, Tom Stene. We all stayed at the same hotel, we all ate together and had a great time running around after the great grandkids (my great nieces and nephews). When I wasn't busy making sure toddlers weren't crying, I tried to get a lot of photos. Not everyone is included in these photos....but again....I was running around after toddlers trying to keep them cut me some slack. (wink)

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Be Glad

Today I don’t have a voice.  At least I don’t feel like I have one.  I’m not talking about a lack of vocal cords; my children can assure you that my vocal cords are working…just fine.  But as I sit here in front of a blank screen trying to come up with words that make sense and will be impactful to a reader out there, I have told myself at least thirteen times,” You have nothing to say today.”

I know the reason:  I’m over my head in graduation preparation and I don’t want to take the time to think about anything else.  I don’t want to slow my roll. I’m headed into the downhill slide and the progress that I’m making is accelerating this journey and I can see the finish line.  I don’t want to check Facebook, I don’t want to cook dinner, I don’t want to contemplate one more thought about why I should take a stand about the obvious value of a human life over that of a zoo animal.

My laundry room is waiting to be painted and there is a sapling growing in the middle of a bush that is waiting to be yanked out. There is mulch to put down, food to purchase, coolers to borrow and photos to print off. 

Yesterday I got rid of two full bags of old shoes and worn out cleats, enough Walmart bags to put me in recycling jail, four pairs of show whites that were now yellow with holes and several scraps of fabric from various 4-H projects from 13 years ago that I was saving for I don’t know what.
The big question today is: Yellow or white for the laundry room?

The bigger question I’ve been asked is this: Why are you so worried about your laundry room when the open house is going to be held outside in a tent? The answer: Because.  (Can I get a witness?)
I know I’m not the only one in these shoes today.  I’m sure there are women all over  the country getting ready for events in their lives and so today my voice will tell you this: Be glad. 

Last week I made a sign and posted it front and center in my dining room where everyone could see it. It was a necessary revelation that has helped me keep a healthy perspective about this last graduation open house.  It has served as a reminder to me every time the stress tries to choke me and make me tap out.

It reads: “We thank God for Jake’s Open House because that means we have a successful graduate!”
As you roll through your day today and look around to see nothing but trouble or difficulty, take a moment and think about your circumstances.  If you need a perspective change, re-evaluate and look at things through a different lens. 

You see, seventeen years ago, on April 13th, this graduate should have been dead, but in a few short days we will celebrate a milestone in his life. And nothing can separate us from that joy.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Dairy Christmas Traditions

It's not Christmas without......

Fill in the blank. Traditions are part of what builds a family and Christmas is full of them.  When you open your gifts, the dinner you create, right down to which ornament goes on what side of the tree. It's all a part of holiday traditions. 

On the Knolltop, I have managed to carry on a tradition that began in my childhood, on my home farm.  Each Christmas was filled with holiday baking.  My mom and sister would begin baking and end with pretty packages filled with home made goodies to give away to friends and relatives.
Among those baked goods were Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls originating from the local church cookbook published in the late 70's.

My sister made those one year and we haven't missed a year since. 

While the recipe originated to us in 1976, the tattered recipe card is from the late 80s when wrote a copy for myself when I moved out on my own. For 39 years Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls have been at every family Christmas celebration.  We don't make them any other time of the year, just Christmas.

The ingredients are simple but specific and important. There can be no substitutes for the butter, only the real thing will do, especially for this dairy farm wife!  And they turn out best if they are made with Jiff brand peanut butter.  The dipping chocolate is a personal preference.  For looks and efficiency, almond bark is best. But for taste, I would only use Hersheys Milk Chocolate Chips. They don't set up quite as well, but I would rather enjoy the taste than see how pretty they are on a platter. You can also mix the two kinds of chocolate, this is what I do. It's a nice compromise.

When I was a teenager, we had a confectionary in our little town called Spagnolos Confectionary.  Mr. Spag, as we called him, had big blocks of Hersheys Chocolate in a glass case. He would hammer the chocolate into big chunks and measure out 10 pounds at a time for me.  I usually ended up going back in and getting more. This was before chocolate chips came in different flavors, back then it was semi-sweet or nothing.

While some people may recognize these delectable treats as buckeyes, they are a little different.  First off you cover the entire peanut butter ball.  Secondly, these contain rice crispy cereal. So they are just a little different than the traditional Buckeye.  Plus any self respecting Michigan State fan would beat a buckeye, not eat a buckeye.

While these are great treats to eat, they are also a great family activity. Bring the kids in and have them help you roll up the balls and dip until their hearts content!


Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls

1 Cup Butter
4 Cups Crunchy Peanut Butter
6 Cups of Rice Krispies
6 3/4 Cups Powdered Sugar
6 Bags of Milk Chocolate Chips (Approx)

Mix softened butter, peanut butter, rice krispies and powdered sugar in a large bowl. Roll into small balls, a little smaller than a golf ball. Melt chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave and dip each ball in the chocolate and place on parchment paper, foil or wax paper.  Refrigerate or leave out to set up.

Here are a few other dairy good recipes:

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

A Quiet Tuesday Afternoon

Good Afternoon from the Knolltop! I'm just sitting here in my office, in a very quiet house writing a few things and getting ready for my youngest son's varsity basketball home opener against Jonesville.  It should be a good game but this will be give us an idea of how the team will do this year. It's Jake's senior year, so I'm hoping they do well.  On the other end of the spectrum, my son Luke has been coaching 7th grade boys basketball and they are presently undefeated.  That's the first time the 7th grade has done this since Luke was in the 7th grade.  So kudos to these boys for their hard work, determination and desire to want to win.

I'm kind of excited this week. I've been invited to be a part of a dairy bloggers community blog.  We were asked to blog about a Christmas recipe with dairy products in it. I just finished that blog and can't wait to see what the other bloggers decided to write about!  This will give everyone a nice collection of tested recipes for all of us to try this Christmas! So make sure you check back in on Thursday to see everyone's blog and to see what recipe I decided to use!

It's time to get movin from this office to the barn for chores and then the gym for fun!

Friday, October 9, 2015

Harvest Season Rolls On

It’s an October morning and harvest continues to roll on throughout the country.  I’ve seen reports of happy farmers finishing beans and moving on to corn. I’ve seen reports of neighboring farmers harvesting 450 acres of corn for their cancer-stricken neighboring farmer and last night lying in bed, I received a text from my son who was still in the field harvesting beans well after dark.

It’s that time of year when passion and tenacity are at their highest and work ethics are driving men and women to stay in the field until the job is done.  Combines hardly get a chance to cool down, grain trucks comb the roads and full fields begin to take on their flat, brown wardrobe of winter.

It’s time to fill up the bins, to convert feed to food and feed the world.  Farmers will trade in their sit down dinners at noon with family for solo sandwiches on the tailgate. They will swap time spent in the bleachers for time in the tractor cab. They will stay up late, rise up early, tread through the day surviving the lulls on cokes and coffee. Repairs will plague them, weather will haunt them and grain prices will lure them.

When the job is done, satisfaction will reign and families will reunite around the table with talk about plans for next spring. Equipment will be inspected, purchases will be pondered and spousal dust-ups are inevitable.

It’s harvest season. Be safe. Hug one another. Bless each other with a kind word. Never leave without an “I love You” lingering in the air, because you just never know…..

Friday, August 28, 2015

Going to War...

Enjoying a morning of freedom from having to go anywhere or pack to go anywhere, I sat down to hammer out some more work for a project that was taking longer than I ever thought it would.

Email notifications started going off on my phone, this isn't unusual but when I looked to see who they were from, my heart began to race and that old familiar friend began to creep into my mind.


Fear likes me. He likes to control me because I've been easy to control. When he enters,  I bow down and serve him whatever he wants.  Condemning thoughts or destructive self talk, whatever fear wants, I hand control over to him.  He can have my self confidence, my thought life, my intelligence, my responses, my future, he gets it all, I give it all up to him.

But today was different. Today I went to war with fear. Instead of trying to brush past fear and pretend he wasn't the elephant in the room, I stood up to him. Today, I took my Bible, flipped it open and began to read Hebrews 4:16 out loud.  And I prayed. 

My next go-to passage is in Daniel and like an old friend who knew just what to say, my Bible flopped open to Daniel 9:17 where I began to read Daniel's prayer out loud. This is a powerful passage in Daniel where he prays for God to hear him, answer him and to act! Strength and hope jumped off the pages when I read this passage. Daniel says, "We do not make requests of you because we are righteous but because of your great mercy." And that is exactly how I feel. I needed God's mercy and strength.  I needed him to take the fear and replace it with His perfect love.  I needed a courage transplant and that's exactly what He gave me as tears began to fall onto the pages of His word.

How did Daniel know I would need these words today?  How did God know to tell Daniel to write this passage so that thousands of years later, on August, 28th, 2015, Melissa would need to read it and transform her thinking? How?

I don't know how God orchestrates all of the answers to our prayers, but I do know that He is my rock, my strong tower and when I run to Him, he opens his arms wide to take me in, squeeze me tight, love me wholly, only to release me, to spread his goodness and faithfulness here on this page. 

Don't let fear control you, grab God's word and go to war. You will be the winner.  Every. Single. Time.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Fast cars and gritty teeth

When you were younger did you ever say, “I will never…….”   Fill in the blank—drive a minivan, let my children have a motorcycle, allow my kids to play video games, sit and watch dirt track racing….

Last weekend I found myself doing something I thought I would never do.  Racing of any kind was not on the radar in my family. My parents never took us to any kind of car race, motorcycle racing, nothing of the sort.  The closest we ever got to racing was the Standardbred racing at the county fair.

So when my husband said, “Hey, you wanna go to Butler?” I said, “uhm….sure.”

Growing up in the south, dirt track racing was his the thing to do on Saturday night.  He watched it on TV, he went to the track, he loved every minute of it.  I have never known this side of my spouse, we never had the time or the energy to take four kids to the dirt track on a Saturday night so this part of his personality has been muted….until now.

Sitting in the dirt covered stands we watched as all kinds, colors and shapes of cars sped around the oval. As they roared by and skidded around the corner I found myself enjoying  this strange spectacle. I picked out my favorites and cheered them on as they went by.  When all the cars would get in formation before their race and the announcer suggested everyone stand and wave to the drivers as they went by, yes…I was standing and waving with the rest of the crowd.

We sat there until midnight rubbing the dust out of our eyes, clearing the grit from our mouths and listening to the announcer say things like, “the track needs more gription.”  Is that even a word?

A new world has been revealed to me now; the world of fast cars, dirty hair and the necessity of earplugs. 

I wonder which  ‘I will never…’ statement will happen next?



Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Family Photo Day...gone wrong.

It's a cold and windy day on the Knolltop. The cows have had their lunch and now it's time to head into town for a few supplies.

I miss writing on this blog. It's a freeing place to be for me because no one pays me for it and I can write whatever I want and if you don't like it, you can click exit.  But I hope you don't, it's not my desire to offend anyone.

It's also been a great timeline for our family. A place where I have documented so much of our lives for a few short years and I believe that is such a valuable piece of our history. While none of my children will read this today my hope is that when they are 50 or 60 they will come back and look it over and savor the memories from their childhood on the Knolltop.

One thing...among many things....that I did not do when our children were young was the annual family photo.  I've seen countless other families who have had breathtaking photos of their families and yet we have nothing but church directory photos.  So while JW was home for Christmas, I harassed my family into posing for a photo.  Here's how it all turned out.


As you can see there wasn't a really good photo in the bunch.  I would try to direct and then they would overdo everything I said.  Someone thought Bobby was drunk., No,  he wasn't drunk, that's just what he looked like that day! I'll try again the next time JW is home from the Air Force.  But until then, this is what we have to add to our family scrapbook. 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A Night that Would Change the World

There’s nothing like the smell of shavings when you walk into a barn at a livestock show. In one breathe sweet memories sweep across your mind like a movie on the big screen and you instantly feel at home.

I had that sensation as I walked into Freedom Hall at the recent North American International Livestock Exposition in Louisville, Kentucky. It was late one night and I had posted the last picture of the day’s show, slung my camera over my shoulder and  spent a little time just walking the aisles of cattle.  Several scenes played across the screen in front of me as I strolled around clipping chutes, feed pans and straw packs.  On my left, two older men were swapping stories of days gone by while across the aisle a young fitter covered in cow hair and adhesive was winding up his cords and oiling his clipper blades.

I glanced straight ahead into the milking parlor and saw a man milking a cow and chatting with his buddy who sat on a bucket nearby. I turned down another aisle and to my right was a dad sitting with his daughter dressed in her pajamas, sharing some fruit snacks before she crawled into the tent for bed and up ahead were two teenage boys staring at their phones passing the night hours away as they watched the cows.

On a Saturday night in the center of a busy city, people were prepping cows for the last big show of the year.  They would show, a few would win, they would celebrate and go back to the farm. 

Over 2000 years ago on the outskirts of a busy city in a smelly stable, two people were also spending the evening with cattle but this time it was without clippers, without shavings and no blue ribbons. Instead they were prepping to deliver a Savior. Scared, cold and questioning, they were in for the night of their lives.  A night that would change the world. A night when the lost would soon be found, the blind would soon see and  the prisoners would be set free.

A child was born for you and for me. Open your eyes, find Him and be free. Merry Christmas.