Homestead Update: Slowly Waking the Farm
Happy Friday and Homestead Update! Oh my, have I missed sharing these posts with you about what we are up to on the homestead. From the chickens to the garden to inside of our home each week, it's always such a pleasure to give you a little peek of what happens throughout or lives. I've not been sharing much because we've been spending the past almost three months trying to figure out how to live on a completely new piece of land, organize a new home, and figure out exactly how to become farmers. It is something that we will spend the next couple of years trying to learn, but just the simple action of planning has taken a lot of out of me. I am thoroughly exhausted from sitting around and wondering, thinking, strategizing without being able to take some much needed action. Plus, spring and summer food just makes you feel so much better than winter preserves, am I right?! My body needs that fresh air, sunshine, and soil.
Life on the farm has been cold and slow. Our days are spent keeping warm inside the farmhouse, tucking our belongings into new spaces. We bake daily and plan our meals. Every chance we have gotten, we head outside to explore our acreage. One of the things that we realized only a few days ago was that this place still feels strange and not like home, at least not all of the way, because we have not been able to enjoy each season here yet. Winter has not been easy! There is much work to be done cleaning up the land, all of the brush that has not been picked up for years and the berries that were never picked last year. We have much to work on in the months ahead, but we are completely excited for the challenge! I recently attended a fruit tree pruning class and suddenly realized that the dormant pruning season is upon us... How did I miss that? It must have been all of the daydreaming! That is much larger task than I anticipated... I do not think these trees have been pruned in many years. A lot of them still have spreaders in the mature branches that were never removed. Hopefully I can help them out a little bit!
In The Garden
The rains are beginning to come, arriving early this week, and we had a week of beautiful sunny weather, with temperatures reaching into the mid 60s! I started our seeds inside of the house about two weeks ago now, kale and snapdragons. Originally, we were going to build a high tunnel but were a bit deterred by a heavy snowfall early this past month. While we knew the high tunnel was not going to happen anytime soon, especially with the giant threat of mud during the spring rains, we were a bit crunched for where to start all of our plants. We'll be feeding eight families including ourselves this year for our CSA program so that means we'll be starting several hundred plants this year. Isn't that insane?! Only last year, I was planting single trays of plants and giving away all of those seedlings to friends and neighbors. Thankfully, my brilliantly innovative parents came up with a solution! We turned the original porch on this home, which is now covered by evergreen shrubs and unused, into an attached greenhouse! The kind with pretty glass windows and heating/cooling and access from inside the house. It will be just like in Practical Magic! I am sure by now you realize how exceptionally excited I am! While the high tunnel sounded really fun and more... legitimate? In ways, the attached greenhouse just feels more like me. I have been missing our cute little glass greenhouse from the Little Homestead. It's going to be just beautiful here. For the next few weeks, though, I will be working with plastic sheeting windows - ha! Remarkably, it is working extremely well, and the temperatures have been reaching up to 85 degrees Fahrenheit daily with nighttime temperatures in the mid 40s and 50s.
As for the plants, I have already started kale, snapdragons, foxglove, summer savory, leeks, lettuce, spinach, bells of Ireland, false Queen Anne's lace, China asters, chives, lavender, tarragon, oregano, and marjoram. I had forgotten that so many of the herbs I started last year had be grown from scratch all over again. I am still a little unaccepting of the fact that it's already time to start these plants! This past week marked 8 weeks until the estimated last spring frost date. It's too good to be true! Truthfully, as much as I am loving spending my days planting, I have been struggling when it comes to sharing. The house is so dark and gloomy! I know these days will not be much longer. It's almost as if the farm is behind-the-scenes preparing itself for its greatest show. If you missed it, you might enjoy reading my Garden Q+A post on seed starting!
In The Coop
Kurt, my dad, has been spending his evenings after work and the weekends building our new chicken coop. The farm has one existing outbuilding, a long four car garage that we will be turning into our general store. On one end, is a dividing wall that turns into a tool shed and existing chicken coop. Oh my - it was so dirty! I am not even sure how old the bedding, chicken poo, and cat feces inside were. My dad and I spent a weekend shoveling it all out, and we had to wear face masks. It was gross! He put up insulation and plywood walls to keep everyone inside warm, and added brand new nesting boxes along with two extra large boxes at the bottom for the ducks to nest and sleep... at least that's where I hope they pick! You never know what will happen. I bet chickens will probably end up laying inside of them anyway! Each of the three levels will have a hinged door for us to reach inside and collect with ease, so that we don't have to walk inside each time. I realized that this feature will also be nice for guests and visitors to see; you really don't want to allow anyone who is not YOU into the coop as they could track undesired bacteria into your coop and get your birds sick.
The photos above are basically where we are at right now. The other two doors are up, and we'll install roosts next. Then the run will be attached outside of the building, towards the house where we can see them from the windows inside. Our chicks are ordered! We'll be getting 25 sweet fluffy bundles in mid-April. I almost don't even remember which breeds I ordered, I was got such a variety! I definitely bought more Buff Orpingtons, Barred Rocks, and Australorps this year. Those are the same breeds we had at the Little Homestead. I also picked Wyandottes, Salmon Faverolles, Ameraucanas (that I think are probably Easter Eggers because the listing said "Americana" HA), Brahmas, Delawares, Sapphire Gems (a new hybrid breed that seemed interesting), and a surprise mix of rare breeds. They're a surprise because I have no idea what they will be when they get here! Maybe you can help me guess. I also ordered two roosters - an Ameraucana and a Black Australorp. I am really excited to have fertile eggs! Maybe I can start selling hatched chicks or hatching eggs?! As for the ducks, we'll pick those up at the feed store in the next month or so. The hatchery I ordered from only ships a minimum of 15 ducks at a time, and I only want about 5-7. I really don't know which breeds I will get yet, but they'll most likely be Pekins since the feed store doesn't have much of a variety.
Around the Farm and Farmhouse
I have to say that I am really and truly happy that we moved to the farm. There were a few nights in January where Tad would say, "I miss the blue house... and the chicken house... and the greenhouse..." as we got ready for bed. I wondered if he would ever realize that we did indeed move and live somewhere new, not that he was not intelligent enough to do that. It was an awkward time of year to move, especially for a little boy who loves playing outdoors so much. We are ready to experience our farm throughout the warmer seasons. The outdoor homesteading chores that he loved so much, especially taking care of the chickens, have been missing for some time now. At the beginning of this week, when the weather warmed up into the 60s, we raced outside the entire day with no coats. It was pure bliss. I didn't think about work or my computer at all and just enjoyed walking the sidewalk that runs all around the house, inspecting our various landscaped plants and trees, and watching the small buds beginning to form on branches. Not that I doubted our move, but it's been harder to see all of the joy that it will bring until it's right in front of you. It was such a pleasure to see Tad running and exploring happily without the pressure of a heavy coat and a bitter winter wind on his cheeks and fingers.
We've started a new recycling system around the house. Now that we don't have a garbage or recycling service that comes to the house, we are responsible for taking care of our waste in a decent manner. That means that we have to be very conscious of what we are bringing into the house at all times! The garbage cans pictured above are for all of our divided recycling: soft plastic, hard plastic, paper, and metal/glass. We also have two pails for food, one for compost, and one for food waste that cannot be composted (like oils, dressings, cooked meals, meat, bones, dairy, etc). Everything (except the food) gets taken to our local Habitat For Humanity ReStore and recycled through their services. We always wondered what to do with the soft plastics, and when we discovered that we could take them there, it changed everything for us! The biggest part of that to remember is to just consciously bring in less plastic.
Our days are still trying to work themselves out. We play inside quite a bit, bake bread, and do the laundry. I am kind of tired of sitting behind my computer so much! As much as I would love to say that I write in late evenings and play school all day... that's just not true! Someone has to answer emails, fill orders, and promote our products for sales. It's all a process. My main goal right now, while we wait for spring to truly arrive, is to get a lot of the planning and computer work done now so that I can focus my attention outside. Don't take that as we don't spend time together! We do. I am so thankful that Tad has two other people here at home that can spend time with him when I can't. It's a trade off that is just beautiful; honestly, I think if more families lived this way, everyone would be much more satisfied and children would be filled with well rounded love. For instance, the Amish here all live together on the same property. The grandparents live in a smaller home on the farm, while the parents live in the big house with the children, and it moves on from there over time. It's really quite a beautiful and efficient system. What do you think? Are you just as ready for spring?