Sunday, July 19, 2015

Blueberries! Yum!

Come on over, the handpicking is awesome! 

Open Wednesdays- Saturdays 8am-5pm or by appointment.        207-949-7662

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! 









Tuesday, June 30, 2015

turtles turtles!

 Each spring and early summer The Nancy Place hosts lots of visiting turtles. They likely have been journeying to the forests and blueberry field around their wetland home (now our home too) for an endlessly stretching amount of time (according to turtle experts, female turtles return to their place of birth to lay their eggs).

We didn't have as many snappers in our yard this year-- it was a hard winter and perhaps their oxygen supply wasn't quite enough-- we were sad to miss them this year. They typically arrive like clockwork, mid-June, during a rainy spell. This year mid-June rains came and only one tired looking snapper, who didn't stay long, showed up (Usually we have three gals in our yard).

There have been lots of painted turtles on the blueberry field this year, and one in our yard. The hatchlings must have overwintered in their nest since we are finding them (2 now) in our gardens. This little one got itself stuck in a little plastic pond and couldn't get itself out.

 



Here's last year's snapper laying her eggs in my garden:
 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Old and New



Last night was our "old and new" dinner. It is sort of an unofficial tradition, a head nod among lengthening busy days, as we use the last of winter's storage and combine it with spring's first crops.

We used up the last of our winter squash,  a Spaghetti Squash turned into pizza earlier in the week, and there was only one lonely pumpkin left. We collected parsnips, greens (spinach, lovage, dandelion, chard, kale & chive) and fiddleheads from the spring garden and turned the pumpkin into curry soup and muffins for our Old/New Dinner.

We are already feeling well-fed again by our little farm, with abundant eggs and ample meat, greens, herbs and parsnips. We feel such gratitude for this little slice of paradise!

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





.







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!