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Sunday, February 28, 2016

Greenhouse - shelves and one raised bed

Thursday night I headed out to the greenhouse.  The days are getting longer and I was determined to get the first board for the raised bed put in before darkness closed in.  There is no power out there.  I grabbed the drill - the Phillips head bit was missing and in its place was a sap tapping bit.  I looked around and couldn't find it.  Back inside to where I knew I last left the extra bits I bought last fall for such projects - they weren't where they were supposed to be either.  Back outside to where Peter found himself inside the pigs fence with a 500 plus pound boar.  A forty pound dog doesn't stand a chance!  Rescue the dog, DH comes out and finds the bit, not where it was supposed to be.  Grab the drill, head for the greenhouse through blowing snow and ice pellets, get inside - no wood.  Back outside - all the wood was frozen to the ground.  Back to the garage, slam the battery back into the charger, yell at the dog for eating chicken poop.  The greenhouse project didn't get started on Thursday night.  Was it last week I said something about TWICE AS MUCH TIME!!

Saturday I had a lot planned, both on and off the farm, including working on the greenhouse.  By the time I was back at the farm and ready to start that project, the weather turned south in a hurry.  I managed to move most of the wood I would need into the greenhouse so the snow and ice would have a chance to melt.  The weather had moderated earlier this week so it only took a hammer to free it from the frozen ground beneath.  This is what it the inside of the greenhouse looked like on Saturday.  You can see the snow covered wood in the lower left corner.

Sunday morning, I had hoped to sleep late.  I was up early, stayed up late and up in the middle of the night almost everyday this week.  The stars had not aligned and I did not get to sleep late.  Not sure exactly what time it was, Little man hollering at the dog two inches from my ear did not make great sleeping conditions.  I was up, got breakfast, sorted laundry, drank coffee, checked the internet and made plans for the day.  I hadn't checked the clock when I headed outside, collected the drill, with a fully charged battery, the correct drill bit and the box of screws and headed to the greenhouse. 

Most of the day I managed to work out there between sledding with Little man and a pretty good lunch of sandwiches and soup cooked by DH.  After lunch I headed back out in hopes of getting a lot more accomplished.  Unfortunately after a yummy lunch and a winters worth of inactivity - my motivation was fading fast.  I managed to get the raised bed finished, DH brought out the shavings and manure from cleaning the chicken coop today, and I started digging out the walkways.  Warmer weather or several more sunny days will be necessary to complete the dirt moving.  At 4:00 p.m. I called it a day, cleaning up the tools, dusting off the newly installed bi-fold door counter and telling the outdoor kitty that she couldn't spend all night out here but I would let her stay for now.

Most of the pots and planters are stowed under the counters, although I am told there are more in the garage.  The ground remains frozen, but sun in the forecast for this week should provide a little more thawing to clean out the walkways.  A raised bed is planned for the middle of the greenhouse, but dead batteries stopped those plans in their tracks.  The batteries are almost eight years old and hardly hold a charge any longer - one more thing to add to the list.  The State of Vermont is kind enough to give us town meeting day as a holiday.  After I go vote, I will be back at the farm attempting to make some more progress outside.

It has come a long way from where we started last spring.  

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Rain and lots of it!

It rained.  The good old fashioned spring time rains that come every year, but usually not until mid April.  It started raining yesterday and continued off an on throughout the evening and most of the day today.  As I traveled home from my off farm job, the steam poured forth from most of the sugar houses in plain view of my twenty-three mile journey.  I thought for a moment that perhaps I ought try and throw together some kind of sugar house so that I could boil this year and have some of that delicious gold, boiled and bottled with my own hands, for our personal use on the farm this year.  A few more miles past ice jams and flooded fields and I thought better of it - the focus is Christmas trees, vegetables and chickens this year.  Stay focused!  I am better off trading some pullets, a few trees or several pounds of tomatoes for that delicious sweet Vermont tradition instead of taking taking my focus away from what needs to be done to make this farm a success.

Pulling into the driveway this evening, any thoughts of straying from the plan were quickly washed away.  I was met with a half flooded pig pen as I crested the hill.  The porcine pond took over more than half of the pasture.  Zeb was comfy and dry in his house with plenty of hay and his side of the pasture above the water level.  Unfortunately, his fence goes around the entire pasture, which includes the south side where sows or gilts might reside while pregnant.  The southeast corner of the fence was underwater, not sufficient to keep Zeb home.

By the time I got into the house, hugged little man and discussed the excitement of his day, the rain had turned to snow.  I changed clothes, got Little man and I bundled for the weather, grabbed a few more dog treats to keep Peter on the West 40, and headed into the now blowing snow with DH in tow.

Zeb's fence is a three strand system - the repair was short, moving the power from the bottom/middle to the middle/top and turning the charger back on.  This weekend, weather and lack of rain permitting, the bottom strand will be moved out of the water and the bottom/middle will be charged again.  For now, plenty of hay, a little extra delectable treat and plenty of water should combine with a strong charge on the middle wire to keep Zeb home.  

This weekend will start with a meeting to discuss this seasons farmers market, then returning to farm to visit with family and weather permitting and water receding - heading outside to make some fence repairs.  The tool for the plumbing repairs along with a new mixing valve part was located in the shop among the twenty plus years of spare supplies.   I knew it was there, but I was rushing and frustrated the other night so I couldn't have found it if it flew off the shelf and hit me in the head.  So, fence repairs to avoid the water and mixing valve/tub repairs to get the right temperature water are on the agenda for the weekend.

The incubator was powered up tonight.  First temperature checks were over 110 degrees.  If we can get it adjusted, eggs will move from the coop to the incubator too.  Spring is coming!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016


Today's weather teased me all day.  I woke up this morning to a warm south wind, no precipitation and the promise of spring.  By the time I had gotten out of the shower there was a dusting of snow on the driveway.  An hour later as I took Peter out for a walk before leaving for my off farm job, there was an inch of heavy, wet sugaring snow coating the yard and driveway.

My drive is usually twenty-five or so minutes; today stretched to almost forty as we made our way through slushy, slick roads.  As I walked from the car to the office, the snow was switching to ice pellets, soon forecast to change over to all rain.

Returning to the farm this evening the temperatures had risen to a balmy thirty-five degrees and my thoughts turned to seeds, a greenhouse and eggs in the incubator.  I will wait, however impatiently, for another week or so before jumping into spring chores in earnest.

This evening, though, was reserved for the optimist in me hoping that spring is just around the corner.  I finished cleaning these tithonia seeds, saved late last summer, in hopes that they will soon be germinating in warm spring soil.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Twice as much time and at least that much money

If I can impart one thing to people who are dreaming of farming or homesteading it is this - it will take twice as much time as you are planning and at least that much more money.  Unless you are starting your homesteading or farming journey independently wealthy or having been gifted all the possible tools and equipment you can possibly think of, then know it will take more than you planned - almost every time!

We adopted a dog a couple of weeks ago and he has been a wonderful addition to this farm.  His bio said he was great with kids, cats and other dogs, heart worm negative and potty trained.  I would drive the hour south to collect him on Friday night, spend all weekend getting him used to our home and continue about getting the farm ready for spring.  He would be a welcome distraction for Little man - it was a good plan!

His introduction to the cats was less than ideal - thankfully they were controlled introductions.  We were present and could immediately intervene when he pinned one cat to the floor and shortly thereafter had another one in his mouth.  While he came potty trained, he was not good with cats, had very little if any training and is a two year old puppy.  Time planned to get the floor and raised beds into the greenhouse has been spent with obedience training, boundary education, electric fence introduction and all the things that usually come with adopting an eight week old puppy.  In less than 48 hours he broke his halter and the food we bought him ran right through him.  Another halter purchased and two different kinds of food later, we have reduced the number of times needed to go out and poop to less than four.

After a week, we decided Peter could stay.  He and Little man were playing so I decided I would give each a bath and then get my seeds ordered and make a dent in my taxes.  Into the bathroom I went to start the water in the tub and get it to temperature.  No cold water - only hot.  Faucet disassembled, instructions for repair researched on the internet and a brief search of the shop for the tool I need and the replacement cartridges that I have seen around 100 times before but can't manage to find at 7:30 p.m. and I head back in to give Little man his shower.  This particular evening was forecast to have lows in the single digits and there are no shut-offs plumbed for the bathroom.  I will not be shutting off the water and the heat to the house to attempt a repair for which I have not located all of the proper parts.  Around 8:45 p.m. the child, the dog, the mom and most of the bathroom have been sufficiently bathed and it is time for bedtime stories and settling in for the night.

3:30 a.m., I wake up on the couch, mad at myself for not getting my seeds ordered or progress made on my taxes.  I get up, shut off the lights and head to bed.

The seeds were ordered this past weekend.  The taxes still aren't done.  I have found that if I let the to-do list rule my life then life isn't that interesting.  It is more of a guideline.  Progress is being made - albeit slow and slightly disorganized - it is still progress.

I hadn't planned on cleaning the bathroom - that was a bonus!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

It's always good to stop and regroup.

Last year I paused.  It had been nine years since I jumped in.  I was burnt out, I was overtired, it seemed like nothing was going right and that I had failed at everything I had tried.  My marriage was in a downward spiral.  It felt like I was drowning in my to-do list.  I couldn't get ahead no matter how hard I tried, how much I scrimped, what I did cut the budget or scrounge out some extra time.  I had been in a pretty rough spot since the summer of 2014.

For 2015 I decided I wasn't going to take on anything new.  I took some time to regroup, review all of the activities I had tried, those that were successful, those that failed, what I wanted to do going forward, what I absolutely didn't want to try again and what I could accomplish completely on my own.

I faced difficult questions from my friends and family - 

  • Why are you so dead set on having a farm?
  • A farm is hard work and you aren't getting any younger?
  • You know that having animals means you can't leave for the weekend?
  • You haven't been successful so far, why are you even still considering this?

Through all the negativity, there is still a lot of positive.  I tried.  A lot of people can't even say that.  My husband called them learning experiences, expensive ones at that.  But I have learned A LOT over the course of nine years.  I learned how to do a few things REALLY well.  I also learned a lot about how to not to do other things.

2016 will be the year I re-invest myself into this farm.  Little man is old enough that he can help a little more and not need to be entertained every minute of every day.  I am determined to be here when he gets off the school bus.  I have a couple years to make that dream come to fruition.

I revisited a post from January of last year - 

Growing Magazine had one sentence that justified my lists this month: 

Setting goals before each season is the only way to know at the end of the year whether you succeeded.

The three things I will be focused on are vegetables, chickens and Christmas trees.  So the lists have begun - like this one of the current inventory of vegetable seed.  Orders will be placed this weekend for the ones I need to get going again.  Yesterday, another package arrived for the poultry venture.

Baby steps.