Monday, March 24, 2014

Try, Just Try

Brooder box is being planned.  This picture is from the first one we ever had with our adventure into chickens just beginning.  Oh, I remember the excitement of feeling like finally, I'd taken a step towards fulfilling that dream.  That was 3 years ago.  I had dabbled in gardening before that, trying, failing, trying succeeding, learning always.  This was my first livestock, and I will never forget that feeling.  Anyone who's had to wait an entire lifetime before they could really start knows just what I mean.  The excitement was palpable.  And since then, we've been through sickness in our coop and three of our treasured hens died, an aggressively mean rooster that had to meet his maker and another that had to be given away because we just didn't need more then one testosterone maker in the hen house. 
I also started this plot of garden over at the rental house we were living in.  It was also success and failure itself, but never failed to provide knowledge and the feeling like we're finally starting something.  I have wanted a farm since I was a little girl and worked on everyone else's farm.  I needed the knowledge and courage to be able to make that happen for myself.   That, and getting my city loving husband on board.  He lived in a small town for a good portion of his life, one which has grown exponentially enough for us to want to move away from it to find something more conducive to what we are trying to achieve.  But Music Man was not what I'd call a country boy.  It was in there all along, he just needed someone who could nurture that side of him.  He found that in me and now can turn soil, collect eggs and build coops with the best of them. 

We have a strong desire to raise kids who know the value of farming and where their food comes from.  We want them to have a wholesome childhood, not so absorbed in exactly the right label on their clothes or the latest electronic device.  My kids aren't afraid to get dirty, dig in the soil, clean a chicken coop, stack firewood, explore a trail, pick apples, cook those into sauce, or any of the other multitudes of things they know how to do.  We wish they knew more and cared less about those labels and electronics, but they are good farm kids just the same.  This summer, now that we have our own farm, their education will become more hands on.  No, they aren't always happy about having to do those chores, they do complain like all other kids their age.  They have no idea how good they have it, honestly.  But I want to turn out boys into the world of men when it's their time that know how to accomplish things.  Tangible, real and valuable things.  Yes, earning a living is key in that, being a good person is a must (as is not living in our home until they are 30!), but we also want them to know how to provide for themselves. Not just money, because let's face it, though it's important, you can't eat it if you have no access to food to be purchased.  But not just for the survival reason.  Also, because those skills and knowledge give a child confidence in the world.  A firm belief, deep inside, that if they need to, they can really do anything.  Their father is a great example of that, he teaches himself things and learns constantly and puts into practice the skills he gains.  We both try very hard to be living examples of what we'd like to have the boys know and be when they start out.  So that, even if they never pursue farming, they know how it's done and how to take care of themselves and maybe their own families some day. 
We've got lots of plans for the new homestead.  Music Man put my hoop house back together this weekend and I'm hoping to put that to use first as a start to the stuff that needs the extra length in its growing season, and second to house the meat birds we've got coming on April 14th.  However, we woke up to 9 degrees again this morning, so not much will be planted in it until it warms up more then that!  We want to put in some fruit trees, berry bushes and a host of perennials that will supply food for us for as long as we're stewards of this old place.  And, leaving something for the next family to own it in the form of food is a fitting legacy for us, I believe.  The skills I learned and practiced before getting here have me confident in the fact that I have some knowledge now, I can start from a place other then zero, and that's a great feeling.  For anyone thinking about being on a farm "someday" and still in a city on a postage stamp lot, my advice to you is this.  Try stuff.  Don't be afraid, don't feel like you don't have space.  So much can be done in a few pots on your deck or balcony if that's all you have.  Read, read, read the advice and knowledge of the masters.  Join a garden club even if you don't have a garden, tour every farm you are able, talk to people who do it, just do.  Don't think, wish or want, but do.  Do what you can where you are with what you have.  And you'll be more confident and in a place other then zero when you get there, where ever there is for you.

Wishing you the courage to try, ~Peacemom

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Whole Dirty Secret

Okay, I have a confession for you.  It's kind of a dirty little secret I've been keeping from you. I'm not proud of it, but it's time to come clean to you all.  Have you ever noticed, when I've posted pictures of our barn, that it's always from this view?  Did you ever wonder why I would not include any other view?  I'm going to reveal why I've kept this from you.  I wanted you to think the best of our little barn.  We love it, even in it's current form.  Which happens to include some rather shredded clothing and rotted boards.  Okay, it's shameful, I know, so here goes...

This is the north side of our barn.  The condition behind the tarp isn't much better.  It really needed some love and care and attention that it didn't get years ago, but we're thankful that at least the tarp was tacked up.  It's been there so long that it's actually ripping through.  When we tell people where we've moved to, people usually respond with "oh, the red colonial with the barn with the big blue tarp?".  We're starting to be a little depressed about the fact that the landmark is the tarp.

This is the inside view of our blue tarp.   As you can see, the boards are rotting away, as are the sill under this floor and some of the floor itself.  Kinda tops on our list was getting the siding on at least this part of the barn replaced this year.  But, we've realized that we'll probably need to address the lack of insulation in the house along with the aged furnace.  Oh, and that kitchen renovation will make our kitchen much more functional for me.  Yes, the list is long, and unfortunately, we'll need to have the meager repair funds allocated to the building we actually live in first.  I've tried to find grant money available to repair the barn, it's an oldie for sure.  We're not sure if it is original to the house or not yet, we're trying to figure that out, but some of the building styles in it are the way it was done in Britain.  The sale price on the first deed we have from 1755 is in actual pounds!  So, we hope that the barn is original.  How cool would that be?  The frame of it is actually in amazing shape for it's age, it's mostly the siding and some beams that were allowed to be leaked on that need replacing.  It used to house cows, and so there is some floor and beam rot where the cows stood, I supposed as one would expect.
Yep, here's more of it's warts in all their glory...

The glass is missing in the windows, some boards are rotted on the other three sides, but it's still a beauty to us.  Kind of like how you feel about your kid, you realize that he might not be the best looker in the room, or the brightest bulb in the pack, but you love him with all your heart, just the same.  It's sort of our ugly duckling, but we know it can be turned into a beautiful swan!  There is bittersweet covering what used to be the blacksmith shop, now long collapsed.  You can see the roof line of it on the side of the barn here, see the peak on the left side showing its ghostly image? 
As you can see below, the ruins of the blacksmith shop are covered in copious bittersweet vines, as is a lot of the landscaping here.  The pool fence has a bunch we're going to need to deal with as well.  I, for one, just can't wait to get in there with the metal detector and see what I can discover.  I spy a treasure hunt for the boys for sure!
As we're trying to come up with ideas for raising money to begin the long list of work on the barn, I've been trying to find if there are historic preservation funds.  Most of them want the barn to be of some big significance.  I feel its incredibly important to save old barns, they are a piece of our history that can't be replaced, but George Washington's horse didn't sleep in our barn, it never hid any famous runaways (least ways, we don't think so!) and for the most part it is just a beautiful old barn that needs work to save it.  This homestead absolutely wouldn't be the same without it.  She's seen a lot of living and dying in her 259 years, that's for certain.
 Okay, so now you've seen it with all it's faults, tarps and warts.  We're not afraid of the work involved.  Those of you that may remember us working on a barn that was well on it's way to being torn down a few years ago know, we've seen and done worse.  It's mostly going to be coming up with the funds to make it happen that will be the challenge. But, I know we're up for it, it's a great old place and it needs us.
Ready to begin the adventure, ~Peacemom

Friday, March 7, 2014

Spring, oh Glorious Spring, where art thou?

Surely, we all miss these sights.  Birds on the feeders, sprouts in the warm garden soil and almost balmy breezes drifting past our grateful faces.  I know, this winter has been pretty brutal on everyone and it's time for it to bid it's not-so-fond farewell.    I've been as good a sport about it as possible.  I've been very much enjoying watching Music Man, the boys and their friends gliding across our little pond on skates.  I've enjoyed trying some more winter type recipes for comfort on those cold nights, enjoying the fact that we don't have that vertical driveway to deal with this year.  Thankful for many, many things this winter, a new home, a pond at that new home, a better coop situation for the chickens...but, the fact still remains that it's been a long, hard winter.  We ran out of wood about 3 weeks ago, the oil bill is prohibitive so we're cold in the house and we're growing weary of winter root vegetables.  Our produce bill has greatly increased as our taste buds are warming to spring long before the thermometer outside tells us they should.   Yes, we're all ready, I do believe. 

So, I've been trying hard to embrace my spring inclinations.  I've got the garden planned out, there will be much work ahead for Music Man and I as we build and prepare a lot of raised beds, I have a plan for the vast scope of landscape work that will need to be done.  The landscaping is well overgrown here and needs much love and attention.  I'm trying to line up a delivery of some firewood to get us through next winter while ours, which will be cut this summer, has time to season.  I've got the seeds ordered and delivered, have the plan for the chicken order and are gearing up for the eventual arrival of spring.  Now, we just need to to peek it's shy little head for us to start on this long list of work.  We also have a very long list if items that will need to be done to the house and barn also, starting with improved insulation in the house itself. 

What plans have you made to welcome spring in?  Farmer's Almanac called for a long, cold and above average snowy winter here in New England.  So far, they've been right on the money.  For summer, they are wanting hotter and more humid then ordinary (not two of this woman's favorite things, either!) here in New England, so it's going to be an interesting year here on our little farm.  I'm just waiting for that first day that I can open the windows, let in the sunshine and fresh air and hear the birds serenading me.  It's coming...can you feel it?

Wishing you warm breezes and spring blooms, ~Peacemom