Saturday, May 1, 2010


Friday, April 30, 2010

a slow waltz

The new farm is starting to fall into old routines. The dust is settling. The place is starting to feel like home. There are some moving pangs, and old ghosts haunting the place, but I'm not worried. I see no point in getting worked up about what is behind me.

And while the place is falling into a slow waltz; we've certainly had our ups and downs. Recently Jazz and Annie broke into the brooder and killed five of the chicks. It was my fault. I was running around cleaning for company, feeding the sheep, and left the laundry room door cracked a little. The dogs snuck in and had a grand time being pro-bono butchers. The other sixteen were spared. (Either they were meat birds living outside, or ran away to safety behind the washing machine.) Never a dull moment.

I can't blame Siberians for being Siberians. I can blame me for being careless. Five birds is a sad loss.

Besides that small massacre every other animal is thriving. The bunnies (seven total) are healthy, and at two weeks old, all have open eyes and new coats. That photo is one of the babes with his poultry cousins on the lawn. In six weeks the bunnies will be ready for harvest, and between them and the chickens... I'll have a heck of a meat supply put up for everything from BBQs to fancy dinner parties. Feels good to cater your own shindigs, I bet.

Food is certainly the name of the game. The chickens are laying nearly 8-12 eggs a day, and the garden survived the cold snap. Thanks to some well placed tarps: there will be salad! and this weekend the potatoes go in, as does my hoe. I'll be out in the sunny weather slinging that beast to make room for more veggies. I already bought a pint of cookie dough ice cream as a Saturday night treat, post sod breaking. It sure will be earned. No doubt about that.

I'm most proud of the meat birds, who have all grown into fat, happy, nuggets and are just a few weeks away from harvest. I think they will be hitting my freezer (and friends' freezers) just in time for the new crop of roasters to come in from the feed store. The pastured poultry is a new thing for me, but so far has been going swimmingly. I hope to finally build them their tractor this weekend. While I don't mind sitting outside and shepherding their grass time, it would be nice to let them in their own pen for a few hours while I painted inside or worked on something else. It'll all happen in time. It always does.

PSA: This Sunday is the Poultry Swap! (Where Finn came from last year.) I'm looking forward to it. I'll take photos and probably come home with something, but wanted to give a heads up for anyone in the area looking for a hell of a farming tailgate party. It's a great event, and a great place to find stock. (Just get there before 7:30. All the good stuff is gone by eight.)


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

plastic insurance policies

This weekend I was outside in a tank top heaving a hoe into the sod and have sunburn on my back to prove it. Tonight they are calling for up to three inches of snow. I hate April.

I spent the bulk of sunlight after work pulling plastic sheeting over the young beds and weighing it down with rocks. This freak storm may bring snow, but it won't re-freeze the soft ground. Not when it was 76 Sunday and they want it 67 again on Friday. It will be a fluke. Long live plastic insurance policies.

All that said. I'm waiting till the weekend to put my potatoes in.

I'm all moved in now, and the boxes are waiting to be unpacked. Right now the animals come before personal move-in indulgences like hanging up clothes. Housing, fences, feeding and new night rounds are being learned. But hell, I did buy a can of paint for the kitchen, and got one wall painted already. I did it late last night while it rained. I had to use all my self-preservation skills to not blue-tape up another wall tonight. But I didn't pack away dinner till nearly 9, and I do need some sleep before my 4:45 wake up call. Painting will have to wait till the weekend.

You'll have to forgive my scattered writing. Right now all the change, the new farm, and the projects involved have me reeling. The sheep still need to be shorn (though they will appreciate their late-spring coats if we do get those three inches tonight) and the meat birds need their chicken tractor. The new puppy arrives within a week or so and I haven't even bought a bag of puppy chow yet. It will all come together: the shaved sheep, the new addition, the snowy salad greens—but tonight I find myself feeling a little overwhelmed. A positive satiating, but drowning none the less. It'll be okay. In fact, it will be amazing. But these first few days have been exhausting. July has never looked better.

Monday, April 26, 2010

one story ends

I packed up my final box from the cabin today, swept the floor, and closed the door.

I drove away for the last time.

It hurt more than I thought it would.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

first garden's in the ground!

morning chores

A lot of folks who read this blog aren't homesteaders, gardeners, or even bread bakers (yet). They seem to have concerns about time restraints. People ask me often how much time goes into caring for the farm and animals. I thought this morning I would time each task, at my normal speed, in hopes it gives you an idea of the energy I have to set aside. So here's a timed example of morning chores.

Taking care of the new laying hen chicks: 2 minutes.

I refill water font and feeder jar from a bag of feed right next to the brooder and the laundry room has a sink in it. Easy. later that day I'll have to refill the brooder with new pine shavings. (I do this every 3 days.) That will take about 5 minutes.

Preparing the laying flock/meat birds for the day: 8 minutes.

Open coop door, feed birds from metal bin and scoop next to the chicken coop. Refill gallon metal water font at the well. Catch egg-eating chicken and place in spare rabbit hutch in barn. Refill meat birds' (too young to free-range unsupervised) feed dish and smaller plastic water font. Later today I will build a meat bird chicken tractor for the sheep pasture. It'll be a simple portable pen of scrap wood and chicken wire. Some nails and a staple gun are all it will take. I look forward to the project, which might last fifteen minutes?

Rabbit work: 3 minutes

Refill all feed trays with pellets, give small ration of second cut hay. Refill any low or empty water bottles at the well. Check on adorable kits. 7 made it and are doing fine. (The others were destroyed by the doe.) Besides repeating this later before bed, that is all the effort they require today.

Sheep work: 5 minutes

Walk up hill. Open gate. Let Sheep graze on hillside surrounded my portable fence. Place hands on hips. Take a deep breathe. Take in the view and smile. Later today I will refill their water, and move the portable fencing to a new area of grass. Because of the hill, wait time for the buckets to fill, and all - this may take fifteen minutes total.

Now, that's a quick morning of clock-winding to keep the animals going for the day. But don't think it's always that simple. If it's pouring rain: things slow down. If something breaks, or you run out of feed it takes longer to mend it or run to the feed store. I imagine if I had children this would take longer and require a second person, possibly. And of course I didn't include the time it took to build the fences, re-fix the chicken coop, build the meat bird pen inside the coop, or transport sheep. However, it was all done in the last eight days with a thirty-two hour work week, a few friends, some hard work, and a trusty post pounder. Far from impossible. And for all it gives me in satisfaction, good food, and sore arms: totally worth it.