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.