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Monday, March 18, 2019

The other season

For those who don't live in the northern states, the 'other' season doesn't carry much meaning.  Here in northern Vermont, as soon as the temperatures rise and the welcomed melt begins - so does MUD season.  It happens mostly at the end of winter and right before spring.  It can however come before spring, continue into the middle of spring leave for a little while and come back at the beginning of summer or just decide to stay around for weeks.  The decision on whether to keep your winter boots handy or whether to switch entirely to the less insulated mud boots is never an easy one.  Head out for a project in just the mud boots and your toes freeze, wearing your winter boots could cause your feet to overheat or the water could be deep enough that the liners get soaked and you can't wear your boots for three days while they dry.  Today I chose the winter boots.  The water and mud hadn't gotten too deep and I was able to haul brush for burning, collect some dead wood in hopes of drying out the still frozen fire pit and bring feed and hay to the pigs all with warm and still dry feet.

All of the melting we have had in the past week is very welcome.  It taught me yet another lesson - don't put your snow piles in the middle of your spring drainage paths.  My driveway slants eastward and draining water typically flows off the side of the gravel before it makes it down to the house but when temperatures quickly rise into the upper 50's and the snow banks haven't yet melted, a winter's worth of frozen driveway heads straight for your garage.  Because you put your snow piles in the way of where that water would normally flow, you have to go chip and shovel ice so that you can keep the water flowing past your garage and down the hill.  Next year I will not put the snow piles in the same spot as this year and I will be shoveling the spring drainage paths after each snow storm.

Most of the ice in the driveway has melted and there are several spots of brown grass poking through the remaining snow pack.  With the sun out and the mud arriving this farmer headed out to start working on her high tunnel.  The post went exactly six inches into the ground before refusing to budge any further and now it is stuck, frozen in the ground.  At least that is six more inches than what I had before I started today.  We are still waiting on baby chicks, it looks like the boys were not as successful as they appeared to have been.  Tomorrow will include more outside work and perhaps taking a few minutes to restore my minivan from farm vehicle full of hay, tools, fencing and who knows what else, back to a passenger vehicle.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Farming is a passion - often unrequited

They say that farming is in your blood.  While I didn't have much of an opportunity to farm with my family when I was young - the last of the dairy farm was being put to bed when I arrived on this earth - the farm itself stayed in the family.  I played in the barn, I got under foot of the farm hands that were still haying, I played in the pastures with the heifers that remained here, I caught salamanders in the ponds, I made forts in between boulders and next to hand stacked stone walls, I slept on the floor of a handmade cabin at the south end of the lake and went potty in the woods, even in the rain.  Those are just a few of the things that are in my blood.

I have been homesteading and slowly growing a vegetable, livestock and Christmas tree farm on my families land for almost ten years.  I tried to fit in infrastructure projects, livestock care, weeding, watering, planting, baking, canning and farmers markets with a full time job, a terrible pregnancy which gave me the most wonderful Little man.  As he grows there are t-ball practices and games, soccer practices and games, cub scouts, etc.  The dream of farming has taken a side seat, a back seat or all too often gets relegated to the back of the trailer whose wheels are falling off.

Last summer I made the VERY difficult decision to leave a career that I loved, working with people that I both loved and admired and a profession whose dedication is unwavering, in order to spend more time on the farm.  I miss them terribly.  

The first few months were a huge adjustment.  Learning a new part time job, taking on a second part time job since the cut in pay was more than my budget could absorb but giving up much of that extra time that was supposed to be spent on the farm, and trying to sell summer piglets who were eating me out of house and home.  Then winter arrived far too early and best laid plans of erecting a high tunnel in November have become hoping to get it completed by the end of March.

Farming is a passion and in order to be successful, many things have to take a back seat.  We don't travel, we don't take family vacations more than a few miles away from the farm, it has been more than two years since I have bought myself a new pair of pants or even some desperately overdue new shoes.  Little man needs food, warmth, and clothing; the animals need bedding and feed; the car insurance and light bill need to be paid, the car needs fuel and perhaps if there is anything leftover then maybe we can grab a takeout pizza or sandwiches once every other month or so.  It has been a difficult winter, one which was not completely unexpected, but one that makes this farmer question - far too often - whether she made the right decision.

Spring is four days away - at least chronologically if not meteorologically.  The chicks are scheduled to hatch this weekend and this past weeks thaw proves that there is actually still grass under the white which has blanketed the ground for the past five months.  It will be lean, but this farmer will be working hard to make a go of it over the next nine months.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

A winter of firsts

This winter has been a little harder than most on the farm.  Normally we are outside for most of the season working on various projects, but this years weather has been harsh.  When temperatures are tolerable in the single digits, the winds have been blowing a gale causing fingers to go numb quickly.  Pounding posts for the greenhouse has been impossible as the January thaw which usually has us outside with our first campfire didn't show up this year.  But alas, when you can't get outside, you work on other projects.  It has been a winter of firsts - but definitely not lasts.

Our chickens have continued to lay, despite the weather and we got our first blue egg this weekend.

I tried a new flavor of jelly - plum apple.  It is beautiful in the jar and even more delicious on toast.

We attended our first winter farmers market last week and we did pretty well.

Spring does promise to arrive eventually and temperatures are creeping closer to tolerable each week.  Today I will clean out and ready the brooder box, baby chicks are scheduled to arrive this weekend.