Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Singing Spring




Last night the phoebes that nest in the eves just outside our bedroom window returned-- chattering into my dreams. They have nested as a pair here for years. I imagined them having a marital squabble about the late night arrival and the nest being clearly unfit for rearing chicks. It has been an incredibly long winter and I am quite positive their little nest, years old, took a beating.



The geese too, have flown in and on, northward. The wind and sun have whipped away the snow, and the garden has become a flowing stream of run-off, in spite of our water-slowing terraces. Butterflies have floated by and the earth is coming alive with sprouts, insects, and new sounds.









Treasures in the Forest


The snow did hang on for a few days of spring weather, letting us ski ourselves into sunshiny locations as the sun magnified snow-amped vitamin D into our winter weary faces. It must be how the first wintery flowers feel as they burst through the snow to bloom, in spite of (or because of?) obstacles that seem insurmountable.

Open Mic in our Kitchen 



Second Saturday Open Mic at Bald Mountain Community Center


Song too, has filled the house, along with sunshine, as the girls sing themselves through mud season, studies & farm chores. It has been so beautiful to see their confidence build and to find that connection with their Dad.

Days have been filled with dark, dark sap collecting and boiling, planting seeds and transplanting seedlings, harvesting food (always ongoing), clearing land for new pastures, making needed changes to one of our rentals, and finding delicious ways to use the last of our canned and frozen foods. Aside from our roasting chickens, we have been having quiches and pestos, green bean casseroles and edamame snacks, pumpkin soups and pies and deer and veggie stews. We did really well with our preserves this year-- only purchasing staples (flours, spices, pastas, rice) a few veggies (brassicas & onions), dairy and then some life-easing unnecessary things like bananas and organic corn chips. The grocery bill was much lower and we all feel pretty healthy!

Organic chickens being processed

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Sap Flow!





Tapping trees, snowshoes required. 

At the end of February we had a warm spell, and I pestered Shawn relentlessly to get the trees tapped. And then the world froze again, and stayed frozen, for weeks on end. Even Maine Maple Sunday at the Happytown Farm happened without fresh sap flow. It was freezing out that day-- and in spite of the fact that we pride ourselves on being a wonderful, supportive, neighborly bunch, most of us stayed home and out of the wind. March continued on in this manner, with little flow here on the farm, until just this past week-- the last days of March into the first days of April -- and the trees have let loose! Hallelujah! I have set up my chair next to the evaporator and look forward to sun-bathing while babysitting the boil. 
A Daddy's Helper, always. 


Here's a throwback to "little ella" -- she's pictured above  as "BIG ELLA". 

Friday, March 13, 2015

Spring Discount!





Ready for a stay at The Nancy Place? Get reconnected to the wild and come see what off-grid living can be! We are happy to host individuals or groups-- book before April 15 to save 10% for the 2015 summer season. Discount Details Here  or simply click on the booking link in our tabs above and tell me you heard about this deal here!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Homestead Update

The last week has snowed us in, measuring in feet, not inches. Only a couple weeks ago we had our first thaw of 2015, complete with rain, mud and then ice as it froze over again. The freezing rain came just as we said goodbye to our second January guests. Unexpected in the cold of winter, the pilgrimage of city-weary people needing to feel that vital spark from deep forests never stops awing me. Nature calls to us all.

As we said our goodbyes, the rain froze--and left us unsuspecting as we made our way to retrieve our youngest daughters from grandma's.  40 mph into the forest is not an experience anyone would want, but we walked away with only minor injuries, gratitude deeply felt.

On the homestead, we find ourselves falling ever more behind in projects already started and failing to get new, exciting, time-sensitive projects off the ground. Shawn is a steady sort of guy and has managed, even with the constant set-backs,  to finish a new chicken feeder. This enables us to use our barn more efficiently, as now goats and pigs can't get into the chicken grain but can still shelter together. He also did some rearranging of horse stalls, creating a small fresh air turnout attached to each stall. This takes the edge off tight routines for us while still ensuring happy, healthy horses.


We have also begun clearing a room in the barn loft for a potential apprentice. Still, finishing this room, as well as the airbnb cabin exterior ( See cabin interior here ),  decking on the main house (2yrs behind now), and the sugar shack--all still wait, long overdue. It does become stressful as projects pile, with new ones losing magic in the long waiting--pitted against finances and unforseen problems. Homesteading is not an easy path. Seasonal needs always take priority, no matter how long a project has waited. Now here comes firewood and sap,even as we continue to move snow and battling freezing water buckets,  followed quickly by starting seeds indoors, all with the threat of spring (which really we can't help but crave), with its tourists, planting, milking. Milking? Yes! 

Here are some specific updates:

Goats: Our two Lamancha does, acquired last spring, went into a few heat cycles before we managed to find them a sweet buck, just coming into his own. He is small, mostly Lamancha it appears, and really, VERY SWEET as far a Billy's go. He's here on a barter, so in trade, one of our new doelings (fingers crossed we don't get all bucklings) will go to his former owner after weaning. We will begin milking our does a bit after kidding and the new variety of dairy into our diet will be quite welcome. We had many guests ask about goat products last summer and will be looking forward to sharing!

The Meaties (Red-bro chicken broilers) have been disappearing 2x2, extra fattened by the long extension on their expected lives (normally they would have been gone by November). 


Kune Kune pigs: The two original pigs, Agnes and Gideon, are doing MUCH better this winter after a rough start last winter adapting to the cold. The transition to winter this year was very sudden and that was quite rough, however. Gideon even was angry enough about his different type of rations that he bit a chicken, twice, resulting in the quick deaths of said chickens. He responded quite well to severe reprimand and got his act together quickly. Shawn made quick use of the chickens. Sadly, Agnes and Gideon seem to have fallen out of love and we feel sad to say that we have come to believe that we were a bit "taken" as newbies when buying Agnes. Although we paid top dollar for her, expecting her to be able to produce regular, average litters-- she does neither and also does not mother well or engage with us nearly as well as all the other pigs. WE will be honest and find her a good retirement home, maybe at a petting zoo and try MUCH harder not to make so many newbie mistakes. About anything. The girls from Agnes' first litter, Solita and Luna, will likely be on the farm as pets. We have fallen madly in love with them and hope to share their good nature with our many homestead guests throughout the seasons. Gideon and Agnes did have one litter together, which produced three gorgeous boys. We still have two-- they are still for sale and would make really great breeding stock. 






Horses:  Belle and Beauty have become permanent fixtures, cheering us with their antics and mareish hysterics. We have a lot of work to do to make Beauty sound, as it has become clear that the founder she had upon her arrival nearly a year ago could not be healed by regular farrier visits or a solid, healthy diet.  We are looking into some mineral remediation as well as gelled booties to keep her comfortable. We keep hoping to help her become more sound to take advantage both of her amazing ride, but also of Belle's -- Belle won't leave her behind, so even if we just let Beauty tag along, her pain limits the length of the ride. 

Layers: The newest layers, the ones born on the farm last summer, are laying regularly now-- as we come to terms with letting some of our older layers go. There are a LOT of chickens in the barn and with layers not laying and meaties still hanging around, things are inefficient and pricey out there! Getting a handle on this is STILL at the top of the to do list. 

Honey Bees: No good news here. We keep trying, and the saying goes it's insanity when you keep trying to do the same thing expecting different results, but that little thing called HOPE keeps us resilient. . . The first two times we tried bees, we failed due to mice infestation. This time, it was failure to winterize. It was not something we can escape blame for. We just got behind. We worried about mice, but when Shawn tried to check he was stung so badly, especially on the face and he refused to check them for some time after that. And then it got unexpectedly cold. Fast. And that's how quick we lost them. It's a particularly hard blow to us because this hive was such an immense gift from creation --scroll down this blog and check the details of how they came to live with us last summer The Sweet Spot

Community: You may have read in (blog link here) that we have been working to get a new community center off the ground Bald Mountain Community Center. It's slow going with everyone kept so busy in ordinary, extraordinary lives. We have also been in a big fight against corporate wind. And the town officials who are inviting them in on false pretense. It's a hard battle because in many ways its 3 battles-- we battle to protect our families and environment against health and ecosystem damages, we battle the nearsightedness of money-minded, right-leaning working-class who haven't researched the deal enough to understand the corporate grabbing and loose-lipped promises won't bring about thicker wallets, and most difficult to change, the hopelessness of earth loving liberals who can't accept that big wind isn't an answer to the hot mess of destruction we find ourselves in. We are protecting, calling out bad form and bluffs, educating and all but begging others to care about our cause. A hard go when the news is full of pipelines, disease, beheading, economy woes and climate battles. If you, reading this, find yourselves confused about wind turbines, I urge you to research it more fully before assuming that it is a good direction for earth stewardship. Support small wind, solar advancements and better research for a sustainable future.

Homeschooling (unschooling):  Our approach, a sort of combo of unschooling and homeschooling, continues to amaze me. We have 2 self-motivated learners who manage 95% of their learning themselves. No lessons, no "teaching" in the classroom sense. Coming in from outdoors one morning, I opened the door to find one completely engaged in yoga poses while the other took a hand-drumming lesson on YouTube. The girls follow some loose guidelines that keep them focused each day. This has led to deepening Spanish skills, feverish reading, mastery of most countries in the world by location and shape, a good start on US geography, all sorts of history, biology, physics and (with less enthusiasm) the memorization of math facts and long multiplication/division.  We have been hugely impressed with our variation of the unschooling model, finding that it inspires a love of learning, self-motivation & self-knowledge. 


Friday, January 30, 2015

Ode to January

A midst deepening snow, a slow cold light flickers and grows steady, returning hope. I have grown to love January. Its cold is unpredictable, with often the warmest days of winter contained within. Always steady in its commitment to start anew, to grow light and to give a brief farmer-respite from hard labor, tedious tasks and time sensitive pushes. With crazy, holy December behind and February holding spring just ahead, January sits in balance between yesterday and tomorrow, between wishes and reality. January dreams deeply and awakens, bringing our darkest secrets to strengthening light.

January. .  . Bringing forth needed changes to growing light, pauses---- waiting, waiting, waiting to see what emerges





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Friday, January 2, 2015

Planting Seeds in Happytown

Happytown: a little community bridging the corners of Ellsworth, Dedham and North Orland. Filled with neighbors who labor as farmers, artists, poets, teachers, lobstermen, lumbermen, librarians, carpenters, small business owners and everything in between--sprinkled with more than a healthy dose of fun-loving musicians. It is a special place that has a rich history of developing connected community that waxes and wanes (and waxes again!) with the ages. The news here is that we are really coming into our own as we seek to ward off big business and future environmental problems through our  Friends of Dodge Hill project and through the recent community acquistion of The Bald Mountain Community Center. We already have a giant land trust (Great Pond Mountain Wildlands) in our backyard and a snug little town nearby for groceries, local made items, and light entertainment (http://www.bucksportmaine.gov/) , but we needed a place to invite others in-- to begin to grow our little community into its potential. Happytown isn't a secret to you keep for yourself, it bubbles up in you and you just want to share it!  More than a year ago, we had started organizing to take over a defunct grange hall-- the one pictured above, The Victory Grange. Hosted at our home, we had an exciting turnout from the Happytown area.
Here is us, starting small, at our first meeting, held at The Nancy Place
We thought hard, imagined big and took many challenging steps to bring the Grange Hall under new management. However, for the aged population of members, the time for revitalization had come and gone and nothing could be done to sway them as they turned the property over to a nearby Grange in Blue Hill. We even got the state involved to try to halt the transfer, but little could be done and the Halcyon Grange, aware of our troubles but in the midst of a capital campaign, promptly put the property on the market. Knowing the property was received at the cost of nothing, we borrowed money from family, put it in the bank and made an offer as individuals-- hoping to get it paid off and then turn it back to the community. However, at the same time, Halcyon received another offer, slightly larger than ours and that was that. What might happen next was anyone's guess. However, there is just no question that Spirit moves in mysterious and generous ways-- because now, at just about a year later-- here  we have it! The most amazing luck; the greatest gift! A community member was the purchaser and although no one really knew him, he took a risk on this little part of the world and began working to manifest the Victory Grange's return to the community-- now known as The Bald Mountain Community Center. So much gratitude, such a generous spirit, and my, aren't we having fun (!) raising money for fixes and upgrades, meeting new friends, dancing, playing music, having bonfires & EATING a ton of delicious, shared, food.
We are still so under-organized and all a little confused about how it will all work, but we are fueled by endless ideas and so, SO, much gratitude! Concerts, community gardens, game nights, Grown-up proms, HS throwbacks, playground games, winter soccer, sliding, yoga classes, art classes, music classes, service window for snowmobilers, our own gas station (come now, that is getting out of hand! but, yes, it was mentioned!). We know well that when we plant the seed, and dream a little while it sits cold in the soil, then we nurture it as it struggles to emerge-- we know well that this creates strength, resiliance, health, and abundance. We will nuture it well, to be sure. We can't wait to share it with you!








A Brand New Community Center
by Maizey


The day before yesterday we had a New Years Day party at the Bald Mountain Community Center.We also had a Solstice party a few weeks earlier. I think a party can be a lot of different things for different people. For instance, to some the meaning of the party is the most important part, like dropping the ball or throwing the Yule Log into the fire.To some a party is just a party-- but to me its about hanging out with your friends and having a good time! 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

toward winter



We are fire huddled and weary, but looking back with gratitude and forward with deep anticipation.Winter, once a cold thought-- a dreary prospect to weather through-- has become a sought after respite; a desperate yearning. Although the projects are incredibly back-logged, winter will still enforce its morning and evening curfews and its slower moving days. We will fire-huddle, all together, in one room. We will share read-alouds and quiet and the cabin-fever annoyances that will create the stir-crazy energy. March will help us use that energy to boil sap to syrup and start our greenhouses. The cycle of life and seasons on a homestead, predictable and predictably unpredictable.

This summer we were caught off-guard by the amazing success of using airbnb to sell our temporary rentals.  We were unprepared for the interest in our homestead generated by these customers as well as our pick-your-own blueberry customers. The garden suffered and projects continued to wait. It was all hands on deck from July 1-Nov 1, when harvest season was finally called quits by an early snowstorm. 16 inches of wet, heavy snow that left neighbors without power for several days and snapped trees and fencing without effort. (we have added storm clean-up to the to-do list)

My pantry shows that my energy was swept up by other duties. We have no applesauce this year, fewer pickles, less salsa and zero pressure cooked soups. Still, we somehow managed to stock the freezer with all those 5 am days and 10 pm nights. The fall harvest took a lot of energy, but that too, is in. We could feel a little sad for ourselves about all those missed chances to swim, canoe, hike or join with friends and family for some relaxation. Instead, we see that this is the time in our lives where we CAN make sacrifices AND be totally stoked about it, knowing that we are creating something that we cherish, learning from mistakes and moving forward to create a better world.

We are looking ahead and are hoping to make some changes next season. We will be adding a farm apprentice to our mayhem to help with the animals and gardens. We hope to get at least one more airbnb up and running, as well as fix/finish/add on to the cabin. We want to fence a large section of forest and get some bacon piggies to help us clear it. And we'd really, really like to get organized enough to start a farm stand.  Tall ambitions, but the winter is long and our energy will be well-stored!



Saturday, July 19, 2014

Blueberries! Yum!

Come on over, the handpicking is awesome! 


Support local farms and come on over to harvest some blueberries! We can pick or rake you some if you are unable to get here during open hours, but we are happy to make individual picking/raking appointments to suit your schedule.  Give us a call, send us a text, shoot us an email! We'd love to have you here at our homestead in Orland, Maine! 








Monday, July 14, 2014

Pick-your-own wild blueberries

We have a sweet little secret here on the homestead that we are sharing with you all for the first time! The contents of this delicios little field usually heads right to the factory, but this year we are shaking things up a bit and trying something new. We are offering pick your own berries on our remote field-- many wild varieties, they taste the best all mixed together.
 
 
Handpicking is open by appointment now, Raking will be open weekends or by appointment August 1st.
 
Please call ahead and for directions 207-949-0880 or email us at mainefarmstore@gmail.com
 

chicken littles

 
 
Today the chicks arrived! They were unexpected, brought in by this stork mama hen who (shame on us) we hadn't even noticed was missing. TEN little chicks, peeping and learning all kinds of wonderful chicken habits. Mama hen didn't hold it against us that we hadn't sent out a search party, and let us hold them and feed them. One was having trouble keeping up, but the girls surmised that her/his weakness was just that s/he was last hatched. By afternoon s/he was doing great. They have now disappeared back to their forest nest. Be well, little chicks! Welcome to the homestead and good night!





Saturday, July 12, 2014

Bottomless 7/21/14

The endlessly broken car. The frantic to do list. The f-bombing teenager. 
Backache. Weight gain. Lice. Lyme. 


This. Is. Nothing. 


Thank God I know and recognize this nothing and more, am filled with gratitude for it. What a blessing. I am so, so grateful for my sassy teen. The conversations with my littles while combing through licey locks are always interesting. My body, in all its shapes and forms, illnesses and aches, is here, working as hard as it can, feeding my family and caring for my homestead --and it is healing. My to-do list has great, exciting, reasons to keep me running around frantic. 

This week, two nearby strangers will put their babies in the ground. Two small towns with two great tragedies. These two strangers have affected me, even with my news media boycott, because they have impacted people I love. Friends with my friends and my childhood community, close to my sisters-in-law, school-mates with my niece and nephew. The loss these families, and their communities, are holding is bottomless. 

I touched the edge of this emptiness once. I hope and pray fervently, with every cell, that I never touch it again. It is vast. An empty, roaring, dreadful, power. My parenting lapsed for a moment. It is easy now to say, hey, I'm human-- but then, I don't know. I was sure the ocean had swallowed her. I screamed, this scream that exists in a world between, through the ocean, to the ocean, with the ocean-- connecting with a world of screams, chorusing with separated mothers around the world. Ancient, archetypal. . . endless. 

My friends ran the beach in all directions, my friends-- holding me with tears as I screamed. My baby was alive and well. I will never stop being thankful for it and being awed by that narrowly avoided fate. We all avoided great tragedy that day, but I have never been, nor would want to be, the same. 

I forcefully choose to live life as fearlessly as I can. My baby girl, now 8, swims in my brother's pool, in ocean waters, mountain rivers and at her grandparents camp. She's not a great swimmer, and I worry. But I refuse to live fearfully. I let them all adventure, my wild children. 4 wheeling, hunting, skiing and snowboarding-- experiencing deepens us, makes us-- and sometimes destroys us.  

We must choose to LIVE, while we are here. We must flip off our worries and fears and dive in. Comments like "an avoidable tragedy" or "was anyone watching" or "those things are so dangerous-- I would never let my child . . . " are not only unhelpful and shaming, they speak to a culture with its head in the sand. Shall we keep our anxious, fear-ridden, selves in a bomb proof home eating survival food with a high shelf life? 

The truth is, sometimes life just deals us a wicked hard hand. These families will find a foothold in the depths of their loss-- and they will steady. They will do this for their other children, if not for themselves.  

As we live it and feel it, here in this earth-plane, goodbye feels definite and resolute. Too often, goodbye catches us unprepared. But worry and fear are the opposite of its message-- instead reach out. Reach out to live fully and without regret-- do what you love, and encourage your children to do the same. Swim, 4-wheel, fly, and walk in the forest.  Yes, understand and connect with the devastation --or with the desperation in the case of Central America-- and keep judgment in check. Especially, though, especially, wake each day and look around at your loved ones. Embrace the opportunity, each day, to BE better, BE healthier, BE happier, and Be MORE filled with LOVE. And tell your kids, spouse, family and strangers, that you love them and wish them well. And remember that separation is illusion, if it helps. 


Do not stand at my grave and weep 

I am not there. I do not sleep. 
I am a thousand winds that blow. 
I am the diamond glints on snow. 
I am the sunlight on ripened grain. 
I am the gentle autumn rain. 
When you awaken in the morning's hush 
I am the swift uplifting rush 
Of quiet birds in circled flight. 
I am the soft stars that shine at night. 
Do not stand at my grave and cry; 
I am not there. I did not die.
                           -- mary elizabeth frye



Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Snowball Effect with Wine

This is the nature of the snowball-- this post was begun in the winter and is being posted just a few days before the SUMMER Solstice. At least the snowball is starting to melt! Here is our story, begun so many months ago-- it is the classic story of what the old timers call "getting drawed off". We are pros at this, maybe it is a part of the multi-tasking homesteady nature of things here.


The Snowball Effect, With Wine. . .

We have an incredible knack for organizing our lives here on the homestead by the "Snowball Effect".  Yes, one thing inevitably, for better or worse, snowballs into our own little perfect storm.

Here is the latest series of snowballing adventures:




You can see part of the shed here, with the attached greenhouse
We have been working to transform a poorly built shed, originally a three-sided shed designed for horses made from slightly rotted reclaimed timbers and never leveled, to a lovely little combo of a Air B& B shack with an attached sugar shack and greenhouse. Here is our snowball story:

After reaching a point in the transformation of this shed that called for some flooring, and having no funds or means by which to acquire some, we decided to remove our cork flooring in our kitchen that was slated to be replaced someday anyhow.

After removing most of the cork flooring we realized we would have to remove the refrigerator in order to complete this task.

After removing the refrigerator, we realized that we hated the refrigerator in the kitchen and wanted it back in the pantry where it stayed cooler and kept our unnatural noises to a minimum.

After deciding to put the refrigerator in the pantry, we realized we would have to remove the pantry door, as the refrigerator is larger than the original one we had there.

After removing the door, we realized that some cupboards would need removal. Perfect! We will re-use them in the shed's kitchenette!

After we removed the cupboards, we realized that the space needed reorganization, so we reorganized all the empty canning jars and gave them a space of their own.

After moving the canning jars, we realized that the fermented wine was taking up too much space.




And so. . . it was time to bottle the finished wine and get the grape, elderberry, and strawberry into secondary fermenters. All because of a "snowball".  At this point, all else is put on hold while bottles are scrubbed and disinfected.


The blueberry, ready for bottling, is decanted into bottles. The bottles are corked and labled. The strawberry, grape, and elderberry-- sitting for too long with all their fruits, are strained and placed back into a clean fermenter.






 



Following the wine-making, we realized that our floors, without the cork (remember, the cork removal started this whole snowball) just wouldn't do. . .  so we began a project of papering our floors:




 
 


It's pretty easy to google a tutorial on DIY paper flooring, and that is just what we did. We got a nice leathery look with it that satisfies us, but without a mudroom and with the farm life just outside the door, it hasn't held up in high-traffic entries and busy areas as much as we'd hoped. Still-- it's CHEAP, it's DIY, it looks great, and we'd definitely recommend it and do it again ourselves!

Finally, back to the shed! We are working on a little kitchen area (complete with the removed cupboards from the kitchen and pantry) and laying down the recycled cork flooring. Short-term rentals are a part of our sustainable homestead business plan here. We currently have a solar powered basement apartment-- so this little shed will be our second off-grid solar rental. We haven't tried Air B&B yet, but folks we know have had good luck. What do other homestead folks do to make ends meet? Do folks have a mortgage and fuel bills or are you debt free and free of fuels that you don't generate yourself?

***AND now, that it is actually just about summer, we have LISTED on space on Airbnb and are still working on that shed!! We actually hired for barter a friend & neighbor just yesterday! We love Airbnb thus far-- highly recommended!