Search This Blog

Sunday, July 22, 2012


Lest someone think that the absence of blog posts the past week means lack of work or progress, rest assured it hasn't been all swimming in the lake and reading the latest Nora Roberts novel.

The heat has taken its toll on our rabbit venture.  We lost nine in total from loose stools associated with the richness of their diet accompanied by the heat.  I have finally learned how to intervene and have managed to successfully save two pregnant does and one small rabbit who had started to get sick.  Quick intervention and one week later are still with us and back on solid food again.  Procurement and installation of an industrial strength farm fan has drastically improved air circulation; I am not looking forward to the electric bill.  Fly controls have been installed, although they are not nearly strong enough to control our rising fly population.  We remove all of the pine shavings and waste once a week with removal of piles of manure occurring each day - they remain a problem and research is being done on other control measures. 

Across the driveway the piggles are thriving in their 1/2 acre divided pasture.  Since arriving in May they have only worked on clearing/tilling only half of their pasture.  Before August 1st we will open the second side of their space and allow them to start on fresh grass and roots along with a notoriously wet section of ground.  If August proves to be as hot or hotter than July, they will be very happy improving the soggy section into a full fledged swail.  They continue to eat like queens with most of the scraps from farmers market production going their way.  This week that included the leftover filling from both strawberry and peanut butter whoopie pies, hulls from the strawberries, cannoli filling and a bunch of lettuce that we couldn't consume before it started to get soggy.  Commercial feed continues to be a staple in their diet since the summer has been so dry, the beets/mangles  and corn that we are growing for them are coming very slow.

Chickens have been a popular product here on the farm.  We sold most of the pullets that we incubated for our own production and had to order some pullets from a commercial hatchery.  They arrived around the first of July and will soon be ready to go out to the small chicken tractor while the roosters who remain in the large tractor finish off to roaster weight.  Our layers have decided, right in the middle of our highest egg demand, to slow down on their production.  Five or six eggs per day is sufficient for the baking I do for farmers market, but our garbage men are a little disappointed that we have not been able to consistently supply them with their regular demand.

The riding lawnmower has broken and the replacement part is outside of our budget at this time.  I am getting some great exercise push mowing the four acres of lawns here on the farm and have lost eight pounds since leaving full-time employment.  Perhaps before the snow flies we will have found the Christmas trees amongst the weeds which have taken over in all three of the fields.  The lilac bush which I have been hoping to prune for the past three years was finally pruned and while farmers market continues to occupy a lot of my time, it has proven a successful venture.  We are planning on our first trip to the processor in over six weeks and have three more does scheduled to kindle this week.  Now I just need to spend some more time in the garden.

Saturday, July 21, 2012


It is taking a little getting used to, but the transition to full time farmer and part time employee is going fairly well.  Balancing the to-do list with the everyday chores, let alone blog posting will require commitment to a schedule which I have not yet been able to achieve.  It also happens to be summer vacation from school and my step-children are a welcome addition to the farm for a short while.  I figure that I will get the schedule completely figured out right about the time that my step-daughter returns to her mother's for the beginning of the school year.

DH and I are learning to communicate better and at night will discuss a task or two that we wish to get accomplished the following day.  I will plan on working on my task first thing in the morning and separately DH will do the same.  Little man wakes up, we take our turns getting up with him for his early morning bottle, and then when the other spouse wakes up, we each start out to work on our appointed task for the day.  Both of us are out the door when we look at each other, then back into the house and say something to the effect of, "I thought you were watching him while I did..."  Eventually we work it out and the day goes on.

As often happens here, one task turns into five.  Cleaning out the rabbits will inevitably include repairs to the waste deflectors, cleaning up the work bench with  left over tools from yesterday's project, cleaning up the chicken coop, moving the chicken tractor, weeding a flower bed, putting up screening to keep the chickens out of the garage while still allowing air flow for the rabbits, etc.  The original task of cleaning out the rabbits (a 45 minute task without interruption) has taken three hours and the second item from the to-do list was either not started or stopped mid-way through.  Kids at the farm requires happily scheduling time in our day to go down to the lake for swimming or fishing or perhaps a trip down to the library.  Scheduling sufficient family play time has fallen by the wayside; when we actually get to the lake, we are there for far longer then planned.  Dinner then comes late and by the time kids are showered and in bed, blog posts don't get written.  My household paperwork has fallen desperately behind and I think I have only made it down to the garden once in the past week.  Not great for someone who is planning on making part of her living from the yield of that 1/2 acre.

During times of quiet, like this fifteen minutes stolen while little man and DH sleep (we were up until 1:30 a.m. baking for farmers market and then back at it around 6:00 a.m. to get the cannoli shells made) and the bigger kids are drawing and making paper airplanes; I often wonder if I am going to be able to make this farm work.  Organization seems nearly impossible and focus on any project is difficult with little man going through a separation anxiety phase.  As the bank account dwindles from regular bills - electric, phone, fuel -animal feed and an expensive brake repair on the car, the tension mounts and I wonder if I made the right decision. 

While sitting on the front porch with my bottle of homebrew, after everyone has gone to bed at night, bellies full with meat and vegetable grown on this very farm; I worry, but I am filled with contentment knowing all that this ex-corporate ladder climbing girl has managed to accomplish in just five short years.  Bring on the next five!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Deciding to add more livestock

For the past couple of years we discuss off an on whether or not to add additional livestock to our farm venture.  Christmas trees, vegetables and chickens - that is what we were working on and I decided that we wouldn't add anything new until we were able to successfully grow these things.  The better part of last year was spent carefully growing little man and very little got accomplished on the farm.  But we knew if we didn't take the next step progress would halt and the farm would remain Christmas trees, chickens for personal use and a large home garden.

Pigs were an intermediary and DH assured me that they would be here for a few months and feed us for the entire winter; that they have done.  We are still eating pork from those two and the freezer still holds hams and bacons waiting to be cured.  Swine have returned to the farm in a pasture situation, supplemented with commercial feed.  Perhaps soon I will know enough about grass-fed pigs to try it completely without commercial supplement.  They have been the easiest animal to raise so far.  Increased fly populations this year do not appear to be adversely affecting them and I have been watching them carefully for all other sorts of afflictions like worms or respiratory problems, which thankfully there have been none of.

I finally decided that we could try rabbits so I joined the ARBA and got the Storey book on rabbits, borrowed several others from the library, devoured Internet postings, joined message boards and learned what I thought was almost next to nothing about raising rabbits.  In another post I describe how we actually came into having rabbits at the farm.  Their shed remains only half constructed and perhaps sometime before winter they will be out of the garage.  Diarrhea has struck again - it is taking a toll on the rabbits with three passing away so far this week.  It is with trepidation that I even consider adding another type of livestock to the farm. 

Changing my work situation means that I am on the farm more and can take the time needed to make the garden successful, maintain the Christmas trees, make repairs to the chicken coop, etc.  However, there always seems to be something that gets in the way - whether little man refuses to sit in his play pen for 60 seconds or the lawn tractor breaking this week or the brakes going in the car - something tries its level best to distract us.  Research is being done on sheep.  The pasture is already here on the farm with a significant amount of fence that can be recycled.  Although reading voraciously about ailments and care of these animals and problems with the lambing process, I am concerned that I will not be prepared or able to handle that with which I will be faced.  They are an ideal animal for the farm in that their value added products number three: wool, meat and milk.  I know for certain I do not have the fencing for goats so they are not an option at this time and should they escape my other crop, Christmas trees, may not survive.

Dairy requirements of the farm and market may not be met with the milk production of a few milking ewes.  Market cannolis use more than 96 ounces of ricotta cheese per week and at a grocery store cost of almost $4.00 for a third that much cheese, my bottom line is taking a pounding.  This does not include other milk and cheese requirements for quiches, cookies, cream pies, etc.  I know next to nothing about raising cows, but perhaps it may be time to learn.

That pasture once held heifers and should easily be re-used to hold milking cows with an appropriately sized solar fence charger.  Milk from one cow will be sufficient for both her calf and for the milk needs of the farm.  Housing for a cow can be constructed using salvaged materials and other lumber can be harvested from the farm.  More resources are available in my immediate area on raising a milking cow, Franklin County is the dairy capital of Vermont.  Beef from the calves or dry cows can be processed for farm use.  I will have to look into either grass-fed options or the cost of feed for a cow, especially over the winter, and their access to water will have to be modified as the one pond in the pasture has since been pretty much overtaken with cattails and silt.  Perhaps it is time to get a cow.  Oh, Miss Librarian...

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Good people at farmers market

It was an absolutely beautiful day today at the farmers market.  Temperatures were in the mid to upper seventies with a light breeze.   I baked up a storm with fresh pies, cookies, breads, and cannolis.  Fresh vegetables from our neighbor’s garden graced our table; our garden is still several weeks behind schedule between the lack of rain and our late planting.  Preserves of an unusual nature, Dandelion and elderberry jellies accompanied by radish relish - I never said I was normal folks. 
A couple of weeks into the market, we now have several regular customers.  We have met a nice couple in their early sixties who come every Tuesday and buy our day-old bread.  Our ingredients are sourced locally whenever possible and we try not to sell anything that wasn’t baked that morning or at the most the evening before market.  Sometimes we have bread that doesn’t sell the day of market and instead of having a freezer full of bread; we decided to offer it at half price the following market day.  People are thrilled to get our day-old bread and often look for that over the freshly baked stuff.  Although when we get to market and the bread is still warm to the touch, that is a fantastic selling point in and of itself.
Another woman who is a nurse at a local nursing home comes after our fresh produce.  She has lost over 115 lbs and loves the fresh fare from both our booth and other farmers at the market.   Each week we hear tales of how far she has walked and what new recipes she has found to keep the weight off and still enjoy delicious food.
Then there is the man who walks his dog through the park.  Enosburg has a leash law so he very dutifully carries the leash in one hand and walks with the dog, unrestrained in front of him.  She is a fantastic dog and rarely strays more than two or three feet from him.  He hasn’t purchased a thing from us or any other vendor at the market, but he is and his canine are a pleasure to visit with each week.
Moms with children in tow (one little boy who goes nuts over our maple glazed donuts on Saturdays), folks going to see the town band play, a lovely woman from the local assisted living facility who comes to market on Saturday always looking for cookies – the characters abound, but each is a pleasure to speak with and often they are happy to relate a new story to us.
The family dairy farm is in danger of extinction and small hobby farms are popping up, but if the few farmers present at our market is any indication, there aren't enough.  I am happy that I will be able to teach little man just a smidgen of my farming knowledge and can only hope that he will love this life half as much as we do.

Monday, July 9, 2012

My Ride Home

While not from Thursday night, this is just one of the
amazing sunsets here on the farm.
Changes in my schedule afford me the opportunity to experience a new part of the day as I drive home.  Thursday evening the sun had just dipped below the horizon as I headed North and East toward the farm.  Normally when I leave my off farm job, it is close to the changing of the days and very dark outside.  Stars are barely visible through the headlights of the car on my travels and often green eyes peer back at me from the tall grass on the side of the road or on occasion from directly in the middle of my lane of travel. This evening however, it was several hours earlier and the colors of the sky were amazing.  As I turned East onto the main route home the sky was a fire with shades of dark rose to light pastel pink.  Around the edges, night was encroaching, the blues from a deep grey to a light robins egg.

Between cow pasture and corn field the light grey of the rising fog was set against the deep dark greens of the woods and the pale khakis of recently mown hay fields.  Down through the valley approaching the river, the light grey turned to a thicker solid white against the beams of the headlights.  Clearing only for a moment as I crossed the river, the evening sky was reflected perfectly in the still water unblemished in the absence of a breeze.  Coming into more fog, the colors of the sky seemed to melt into a deep lavender purple, almost black at the edges.  The evening mist carried with it smells of smoldering brush piles from farmers clearing new fields and pastures combined with a thick, wet mossy odor.

My travels this evening yielded a different kind of wildlife.  People, enjoying the last of the warm evening were returning to their homes on bicycles, children holding hands with their parents walking on the recreational trail and chasing lightning bugs in their front yards.  Cows and horses were still up looking for the perfect corner of the pasture to relax and grab a peaceful night's sleep.  Back at the farm, the fog had yet to settle around the lake and the night sky was spilling forth full of stars.  Inside to say good night to little man and back out to feed the rabbits, the breeze had picked up ever so slightly, just enough to keep the mosquitoes at bay. 

To top off the evening, as I stepped outside to watch the lightning bugs, off to the East, the moon rose over the lake.  Hanging in the sky, it appeared as a slightly misshapen egg yolk, the setting sun long past our horizon still reflecting a deep orange yellow onto the surface of the moon.  Rising higher in the sky, the area around the moon took on an unusual shade of purple.  The bull frogs began singing, the glow of campfires were visible from the state park across the lake, and the star filled sky wrapped around me like an old familiar blanket as I got ready to head inside and capture some restful sleep of my own.

And people wonder why I moved out of the city...

Friday, July 6, 2012

Unintentional snapshot of life

While chopping onions and freezing greens that didn't sell at farmers market I noticed how photogenic my table was at that moment, so I grabbed the camera.  Going through the pictures I noticed that this one in particular captured this weeks activities in a nutshell.

In the upper left hand corner of the photograph you will notice packages of seeds.  These are for the sugar beets which will feed the pig(s) through the winter.  They remain in a package on the kitchen table because it has either been to dry to plant or we just haven't made it down into the garden.  Immediately to the right of that is an envelope containing a filled order from our website that is ready to be mailed when I leave for work or walk up to the top of the driveway.   In between the package and the engagement calendar is my Epi-pen.  A fatal allergy to bee-stings (mine) is the only thing keeping us from making our own honey here on the farm, although I keep trying to talk DH into trying it. 

The ever important engagement calendar, at the top of the photograph almost in the middle, is how I manage my life.  It keeps track of all of my appointments, little man's doctors visits, dates of rabbit kindling, the days that I am working since I am only doing that part-time right now, and soooo much more.  This particular calendar is from the Farmers Almanac, each day and each month contain interesting tidbits of information, gardening tips, old wives tales and more; it is an interesting distraction if only for a moment.  I keep my calendars for several years after they have expired to be sure that I have captured anything of great importance in my computer spreadsheets or in other records.  Pretty soon the paper calendar will be outdated, everything will be stored in our smart phones or other electronic device.  Someday when I am teaching my grandchildren the nuances of farming, it might be nice to be able to reference them.  Unless for some reason I have to move, then I might wonder why in the world I kept all of these calendars.

Much of the rest of the table is occupied by delicious fresh produce from our garden, that of our neighbor, and some that we traded for with another vendor at the farmers market.  This bounty produced a one gallon bag of chopped onions, five quart size bags of beet greens, three gallon size bags of spinach, and enough lettuce for salads for DH and I for four meals.  Six pounds lighter since I am spending more time on the farm, I am hoping that all this great food will help in that endeavor.  In the upper right hand corner is the deep-fryer which we use for our donuts and cannolis - leftovers of these items are not helping on the weight loss front.  And not to forget little man in all of this - between the wooden rails of the back of the chair is a blue and white bag - that is his diaper bag.  It is funny how capturing the preservation of the harvest can turn into 'a day in the life.'

Thursday, July 5, 2012


Everyone has those favorite recipes that they make over and over again.  So much the favorite that you memorize the recipe, make subtle changes to it over time and even change out ingredients to make what has become old, new again.  One day, I just stopped making quiches; not for any particular reason, just didn't make them anymore.

Baking for farmers market has drummed up some requests for some home cooked meals.  One item that was requested was a vegetable quiche.  I don't know if you have ever made one before, but they are the simplest things to make, especially with the advent of ready-made pie crusts from the grocery store.  Put the pie crust into a pie plate, put it in a 425 degree oven for 5-7 minutes.  While that is cooking, make the center of the quiche.

Three to four eggs, one cup of milk, one and a half cups of cheese and whatever other ingredients you think go well together, and salt and pepper to taste.  Beat the eggs and milk together, add the cheese and other ingredients, pour into your hot pie crust and put that back into a 325 degree oven for 30 - 45 minutes until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean and the center no-longer jiggles.

This particular quiche had broccoli, green onions, a touch of nutmeg, and cheddar cheese.  I have made them with spinach and garlic, ham and swiss cheese, and with beets - that was a pretty color.  They are delicious, relatively healthy, depending on your choice of ingredients, can be easily made with leftovers, and pretty inexpensive if you have your own chickens and make your own crust.  DH said that I can make another one for the house anytime I felt in the mood.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Maybe I can't grow eggplant

Two years ago I made my first endeavor into growing eggplant.  None of them grew.  Gardening comes fairly easily to me and most of what I attempt to grow does pretty well as long as the weeding gets done.  Therefore it was a complete surprise that not one little eggplant seedling survived in my garden.  I racked my brain to determine whether there was excessive pest pressure or whether they hadn't gotten enough water.  Not enough compost?   More mulch to eliminate the competition from the weeds or retain more moisture?  For the life of me I couldn't figure out what I had done wrong.  Yesterday morning, I got my answer. 

Out into the garden to transplant some veggies and start the next successive planting of seed; then I noticed the weeds.  I set down my transplants (which remain in the same place I set them down yesterday) and started in weeding the green beans.  Well, from the green beans, over to the cucumbers, then the swiss chard, and then, and then, and then...  Finally I came to where the eggplant should have been.  It couldn't be, not again.  I couldn't see one seedling.  The weeds weren't even that bad, what could I have done???

As I began tearing at the weeds, I noticed a weed which had arranged itself neatly into rows.  I thought to myself, that pesky weed, it devoured my eggplant and...  No I wasn't intoxicated, but perhaps the sun had fried a couple of extra brain cells.  It turns out that eggplant seedlings look A LOT like the swamp weed that grows in my garden.  Those poor seedlings never had a chance two years ago.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Amazing tan

Winter sunset on the farm
"Look at how tan you are!"  It is true that I have a 'great summer tan,' but it isn't from laying out on my lounge chair reading 50 Shades of Grey. 

"Who does your hair?  Your highlights are fantastic."  But those didn't come from taking a leisurely swim in the lake and allowing the sun to wick the moisture from my skin.

"You look so relaxed."  But it isn't from snoozing the afternoon away in the hammock or playing with little man on a blanket in the back yard.

The truth is, so far this year I haven't made it into the lake that lies a mere 500 feet from the front of the house.  Though I have heard tell of the trilogy of novels that has every woman a buzz, the last book I read was authored by Joel Salatin.  Playing with the little man has occurred primarily indoors, though we do take him outside everyday.

The lovely bronze skin and the 'best highlights' are naturally occurring results of spending 60-80% of my day working outdoors.  There is still much to be done to get the farm performing/producing a liveable income so DH and I are outside a lot.  Between contructing outbuildings, maintaining fence, weeding gardens and flower beds, even the 20 minutes outdoors while the chicken tractors are cleaned, moved and restocked, vitamin D is absorbed.

If these comments on my improving appearance are any indication of how well the farming life looks on me - then this is further evidence that I made the right decision to work part-time and farm full-time.