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Thursday, October 31, 2013


Photo courtesy of Wildrose Primitives Etsy Shop
I am a list person, always have been and probably always will be.  My lists keep me sane.  When the mind is cruising along at 110 mph when I am trying to fall asleep, I take out a notepad and pen and dump everything onto the piece of paper which often results in a vague self-assurance that these things will get done eventually and I can finally drift off to dreams.

On Saturday morning while Little man eats and I drink my coffee, THE LIST is created, it contains, but is not limited to - every housecleaning item that didn't get done during the week, any financial/book keeping tasks required to keep the lights on and repo man at bay, any orders or replenishment of farmer's market inventory, any animal related jobs which weren't done during the week, at least one or two irregular house cleaning tasks, meal prep for the following week, laundry, dishes and garbage, one or two organizational projects, at least one home maintenance task, and one or seven farm projects. 

By the time breakfast is done, the first load of laundry is ready to be switched, the dishwasher is finishing its rinse cycle and the garbage has been tied and is ready to go out when we feed the animals.  Little man is collected, washed up, changed and out we go to care for all the critters in our charge, water bottles and containers filled, all feeders topped off and the chickens let loose from the night time safety of their coop.  Back inside to wash out buckets for the restaurant who generously donates their food scraps to our pig and then it is off to run any remaining errands.  Grocery shopping is often completed on Friday evenings when I can run quickly through the store collecting the week's supplies.  Errands are complete by 11:30 a.m. or 12:00 p.m. and then it is back to the house or off to Nana's depending on the day.  Lunch, then Little man goes down for his nap and the true work on the THE LIST begins.  Some day I will be able to complete everything on THE LIST by the end of the weekend.  In the meantime, I just keep working on one or two things each night in hopes that there aren't too many carry overs from week to week. 

Maintaining a weekly list and having a weekly meal plan are two goals that I made for myself starting in September.  Both were established in an effort to ensure I had more time to spend with Little man after work and to curtail the amount of waste we were creating.  Last night I was finally able to clean up the rotted OSB from the backyard.  This represented good money wasted because I hadn't made the time to finish the rabbit shed after I had already purchased materials to do so.  While picking up rotted wood I found some good tools which had been forgotten at the end of one project or another, collected them and returned them to the garage.  There is much to be done, but each day at least one thing gets crossed off the THE LIST.

Clean up OSB from backyard - complete
Clean, repair, oil/grease hand tools - added

Such is nature of the THE LIST.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Taking a step back and restoring focus

This summer on the farm passed in a blur as I tried to balance working off-farm part-time, spending quality time with my Little man, and attempting to secure sufficient income to put fuel in the tank and food on the table for the winter.  Heated arguments ensued - the word 'quit' came up several times in those less than calm, collected, discussions about who didn't do what and why we were 'never' going to be successful.

We agreed on one thing only - Little man comes first no matter whatever we decide to do.

Labor Day brought with it a garden that had all but succumbed to the weeds.  We collected a few wonderful meals worth of fried green tomatoes, but didn't get back out soon enough to put up any green tomato relish.  The club size zucchini went soft as they lay neglected after they were one of the few things that managed to survive the weed pressure.  Onion sets, peppers, spaghetti squash were all lost to rot under the weight of the falling weeds.  The herb garden did well, although the basil crop was severely stunted by lack of attention to weeds therein as well.  Tomatoes that didn't get transplanted out of the green house fell out the sides when the roof was removed and a few precious fruits were harvested, but most went to the chickens and the pig.

Farmers market went well with fresh baked and value added items taking the lead and fresh vegetables and produce from around the farm and that of our neighbor coming in a close second.  Unfortunately by the time I came home from my off-farm job, spent some time with Little man and then set-in to bake for the following day's market, it was well into the morning before I got any sleep.  It felt like weeks passed with my brain in a fog.  I was too tired to play outside with an eager toddler - the decision had to be made soon.  September brought with it hard fought glimmers of hope that we might be able to make this work - Little man, I can only hope would hardly remember this summer of rushed, crazy, pressure.

The following week I got a message from a colleague who told me that she might be moving on to pursue a different career opportunity.  Decision time had dropped out of the sky like an anvil onto the roadrunner.  I was beat-up, over-tired, feeling like I was neglecting my child, knew that I was neglecting myself, and having a difficult time trying to figure out which way was up.  Last year's propane bill hadn't been paid, we were behind in every utility and car payment and I was looking at trying to come up with thousands of dollars for taxes and propane and tires for vehicles before snow flew, let alone any other projects that had to get done before it got too cold.  Through all the sleep deprivation and fear, there remained the faint flicker of hope that all this summer's hard work was finally putting up some concrete numbers.  If we can just improve on those numbers - I might be able to work a little harder or go without another 30 minutes of sleep each night... 

I would love nothing more than to work on the farm and make it a sustainable venture.   Unfortunately heat for the house is a necessity in Northwestern Vermont.  I want to be at the end of the driveway to see my son get off the school bus each day.  It takes a community to raise a child and for the past couple of years we haven't had that community as we strove to build our farm venture.  Debts long ago incurred refused to be neglected.  Little man's father works at the base of the mountain requiring snow tires sooner rather than later and if I don't get my oil changed and tires put on my vehicle soon, then my car won't leave the driveway if the weather turns.

It was one of the most arduous decisions of my adult life,
I went back to work full-time.

I am determined to continue, albeit on a much smaller scale, farming on this piece of land to which I have become a caretaker.  The pig will be bred this fall and rabbits will continue to be a part of the farm.  We are in the process of scaling back to between four and six does which will keep us in rabbit as a good source of protein and have a few extra for family and friends.  Gardens will be relocated to make them easier to tend in closer proximity to the house so when I can carve out five minutes, it can be a productive five minutes.  The green house will be used to start plants again this spring, but I will only be planting enough for personal use plus ten percent for loss.  Focus will be shifted back to the Christmas trees ensuring that they get the appropriate attention this year so we can have some saleable trees next year.  Chickens and eggs will remain a staple product and perhaps I can consider adding one or two value added items to the online farmers market.

We will be shoring up our existing ventures and getting ourselves out of debt.  No more livestock, new projects or new ventures will be added until we have gotten each of the existing enterprises to sustain themselves or each other with no additional inputs required from off farm income.  The search will begin for a sustainable heating option for the house so that our reliance on propane can be limited.  Solar options for electricity and water will be researched and accumulation of free or bartered components will begin for all of the above projects.

It was not an easy decision, but it is the smartest option for us at this time.  We will take the coming year to be better prepared, to hole in and get all of our outstanding debt taken care of and to think through all of my grand ideas and put numbers and time lines to each.  The decision to take up any of the grand ideas will be subject to intense scrutiny and if starting the next project will in any way cause detriment to our existing ventures it will be shelved or tossed completely.  I still hope to someday add a lactating animal or three to the farm along with fiber animals and the value added products associated with them, but not right now.

The blog will continue to share the details of the farm as it continues on its much smaller scale, but will also include things like meal-planning and weatherization.  Our pig is still in search of a boyfriend for the holidays and the rabbit shed has rafters but is still missing a roof.  Little man is better for the time we are spending together as it is certainly better quality then it was quantity.

I hope you will stay with us as we step back, reign in the craziness and start again with some valuable lessons learned under our belts.