In February of 2009, my husband and I bought our first home located on a few acres in Johnson, Vermont. We live here with our dog, Ollie, two cats: Elvis and Atticus, six Nigerian Dwarf goats: May, Chutney, Poppy, Juniper, Willow, and Jokers Wild, and about fifteen laying hens. And to top it all off we welcomed our daughter, Isabel, into the world on January 11th, 2011.

We're slowly updating our 1850's farmhouse while steadily working towards a healthy, meaningful, self-sufficient life together.

This blog details our endeavors along with our successes and failures- all in good fun. Thanks for stopping by, hope to see you again soon!


May and I enjoying some sunshine


Our Throw-Away Society

Lovingly Posted by Melissa Tuesday, September 29, 2009 2 comments

Well, Tuesday night has arrived.  Kyle is off for the evening at a class he's taking towards his Masters Degree.  I usually use this night to get caught up on house-work; dishes, laundry, etc etc.  But tonight I'm not getting much work done.  I've been fighting a cold for the past two weeks so I resolved to pay the bills, read up about beekeeping, finish the transfer paperwork for our goats, and work on today's blog post.  Shortly after arriving home I came to the realization that something was strangely amiss with my laptop. 

It had been plugged in all day but the battery indicator was showing as nearly empty.  Sure enough, when I unplugged the darned thing it immediately shut off and would not start back up again until I re-attached the power cable.  Looking online at replacement batteries that were listed at a minimum of $80 I was immediately shocked and irritated by the company who makes these things as it is only a couple years old.  This of course brings me to my rant for the evening- our throw-away society.

Most electronic devices nowadays are only meant to last for about two years.  According to the Environmental Protection Agency, in 2005 about 5.3 billion pounds of ewaste was disposed of in landfills.  The major trouble with throwing away all these little things is most contain quantities of lead and arsenic which are well-known carcinogens.  When these are buried in landfills the chemicals leach into the ground and eventually join with the groundwater, where it is consumed by billions of people.

Of course, with the way the world is now, a person can't seem to manage without a cell phone or a computer.  There is probably nothing we can really do about that (I'll most certainly fork over the $80 or $100 for a new battery for my laptop) but we certainly can make an effort to be sure the replaced item makes it to a proper recylcing facility.

You can find some information about recycling your old cellphones and computers at the Environmental Protection Agency's website or even at your local recycling center.

A Beautiful Fall Day

Lovingly Posted by Melissa Sunday, September 27, 2009 0 comments

Man do I love fall in Vermont.  Have I said that enough already?  Ok ok, moving on then.  Yesterday was GORGEOUS!!  It started out as a pretty frigid morning, I almost turned on the heat but decided that one extra layer ought to take care of it for now.  We went out to feed the girls in the barn and all the blades of grass were covered in a little blanket of frost.  I was psyched to get my Carhartt jacket into use again.

We were up extra early (thank you, SHYLA) and headed over to the annual Underhill town-wide yard sale.  Walked away with only six stuffed animals to show for it which cost a grand total of one dollar.  No, we're not the kind of people who start gathering things for someday when we have kids: we live in the NOW.  Well anyways, the toys were actually for the dogs.  I think Ollie has already destroyed two of them but Shyla couldn't care less which is funny because we did, technically, get them for her.  Ollie is more of a tennis-ball freak, but if he gets the chance to rip something into shreds he is all over it.

By the time we got back the sky had cleared and it was solidly in the 70s with the sunshine.  Kyle began working on finishing up around the entry door.  We had originally had wire moulding for the switches and outlets on that wall but he figured since we had to tear the wall open to widen the opening for the new door, might as well hide the wires while we're patching everything back up.  Sounds good to me, wire moulding looks like crap as far as I'm concerned and I figure the sooner we can get rid of it the better.

Too funny, though, while he was working I took some time to let May and Chutney out on the front yard.  We've been accumulating a decent amount of leaves from our maple trees out back and I figured they'd probably take care of them for me so I wouldn't have to rake.  Dried leaves are one of their favorites so I let the girls out of their paddock and they eventually followed me back over to the front of the house.  Well, they didn't quite have the same agenda and next thing I know they are trying with all their power to just go right in the front door.  So I'm trying to keep the dogs IN the house while keeping the goats OUT and poor Kyle was stuck in the middle of the whole mess. 

I think it is safe to say that I think I'm still going to end up raking the front yard.

First Frost? Bring it on!!

Lovingly Posted by Melissa Friday, September 25, 2009 1 comments

Sounds like the next few days are going to be cooling down quite a bit.  I'm glad we've got our chickens into their new routine.  For the past few months the girls have been sleeping high up in a tree right next to our barn.  It worked for them and we didn't have any trouble with predators- except that one time- but thats another post altogether.  With the cooler weather approaching, our first frost scheduled for tonight, we decided that we'd better start having them sleep in the barn so they didn't try to forge through the winter on their outdoor perch. 

So a couple weekends ago Kyle and I installed a nice long peice of wood- a recycled 2x2 that we rounded the edges on- for their indoor roost.  We've got it suspended about six feet off the ground- not nearly as high as they would go in the tree but I figured they didn't have as much space to land- we don't want those girlies to smack into the wall on their way down.

It definitely took a few days for the chickens to even really discover that it was there but after a couple weeks of feeding them early so we could shut them in the barn before they would get the chance to roost in the tree, I think they've got the hang of it.  They even go in during the day if it is breezy, cold, or raining- so they're catching on pretty quick.

I love going out to the barn now and seeing all those gals up there, cuddled up next to eachother.  The roost could probably could be longer, but they're doing well with sharing the space.  We also made eight nesting boxes, but we're kind of jumping the gun there, these ladies aren't due to start laying until November...and I'm not sure how much luck we'll have at that point due to the lack of daylight.

On another note, the broilers are doing alot better now that they've had more room to move.  We've had one little guy who couldn't even stand on his own- his legs splayed to either side of him as he sat continously on his butt.  We tried bracing his legs underneath him as we had seen done online but the bandaids would never stay put with his thick legs.  So, for a week we had been debating what to do with the poor thing.  He appeared to be doing alright in all other respects, he is just as large as the rest and made it around by scooting.  But our consciences were wearing on us. 

Although their purpose is to be food for our family the whole point was to raise them ourselves so we could provide them with a happy and healthy life until that time came.  We bought them too late in the year to be able to keep them outside, much to our disappointment, even during the day when the sun is out the chilly breeze is just too much for these half-feathered-in broilers.

This morning Kyle came into the kitchen to declare that he thinks the little guy is better.  Perhaps with the extra space and the need to move around more to get to the food and water he strengthened his legs and has made a full recovery.  I certainly hope so- I was thinking of naming him Tiny Tim but considering the circumstances I don't think that would be such a good idea.

Is it Autumn already!?

Lovingly Posted by Melissa Thursday, September 24, 2009 1 comments

I think I say this at every change of season here in Vermont, but I think autumn is my favorite.  I love being able to pull out my stowed away cozy sweaters and Turtle Fur hats that have been patiently waiting in their bin in the spare room.  Our big old maple trees behind the house are slowly morphing their lush green leaves into something a little more festive.  And our goats are definitely loving the fact that they get to have dried leaves on a regular basis now.  Autumn always brings back all those cliche nostalgic memories like playing in big piles of leaves and of times my brother and I spent playing on the old tire swing in our front yard as kids.

Kyle's been working on finishing the installment of our new front door this evening.  It was a project that began last weekend when we just got so sick of not being able to latch our old door.  We literally had skeleton keys for the front door.  It was quite a source for disagreement between Kyle and I this summer as I just wanted to fix the latch but Kyle wanted to replace the door all together.  I have to admit, it probably would have been a serious pain to try to fix as its an old wooden door that had obviously received multiple patch jobs around the general latch-area.  But, it was a gorgeous door with three panels below a nice big window, so I wanted to keep it.  My battle was lost Saturday morning as Kyle got ambitious and hauled the old door down off its hinges and proceeded to remove the casing and jamb.  I watched in horror as I sat at the dining room table bundled up, drinking a cup of hot chocolate as a stiff breeze whipped through the now gaping hole on the front of our house.

It was only after removing the door and all its fittings that we began looking around for a new jamb (the old one unfortunately having been sacrificed to the demolition gods).  We called up the local hardware store/lumber mill and they professed to have them in stock.  Our luck was on the way out the hole in our house as we went to purchase said door jamb. 

Turns out they only had the right hand side of the jamb, two of them.  Well that wasn't going to do us any good so we set off for Morrisville feeling confident that we would find a door jamb set at the next place.  Unfortunately they didn't have any either, not even one side of a jamb.  At this point we were suprised but not worried as we set off to the lumber mill there in town which supplies contractors with building material and tools.  The guy there at least did a thorough check and managed to rustle up the left side of a jamb.  But, just our luck, by that time the first place in Johnson would be closed so we wouldn't be able to get the right side to match it.

Luckily by this time the fog had burned off and the day slowly warmed up into the mid to upper 60s so we weren't supplying the house with freezing air anymore.  We sealed up the hole in the wall the best we could as we set off for a birthday party for our nephew, Simon.  On the way home we caved and went to Lowes and bought a door jamb set.

On Sunday the project resumed.  The framing went up, the new threshold and jamb was set in place, leveled, and shimmed.  I wasn't any help as I am usually in the mindset of "I don't think you're doing that correctly, are you?" so I set off to move our one-month old cornish x rocks to their new, larger box that Kyle had constructed a couple days before. 

These guys are seriously huge.  It took me five trips of carrying three birds at a time in a rubber bucket up two flights of stairs from where they were in the basement (bad idea) to the second floor above our workshop.  This new spot is alot warmer and gives them more space to "roam" if their little legs feel up to the challenge.  We've already decided that this is the last time we'll buy this breed of bird, most of them can barely walk for more than a few steps before they feel the need to take a rest due to their size.

By the time I had gotten all the birds moved and situated with their heat lamp, food, and water Kyle was pretty much ready to put the door up.  The door is a nice looking door that my Mom had given us when she removed it from her house (we love free stuff).  Well, it was looking pretty good until we stepped back to see some little gaps here and there around where the door should have been sealing.  Daylight was running out and we were both feeling a little defeated so, once again, we sealed it up as best we could with a sheet of plastic and called it a night.

I came home from work tonight, made some red-lentil tomato soup for dinner and Kyle declared he was going to work on the door.  An hour later, after reframing and rebuilding the jamb, he is putting in the final screws.  Looks like a good fit this time.  I think once we get some insulation in that wall we ought to be in alot better shape for this winter.  What can I say?  We definitely learn as we go here. 

I think I'd best be getting out to the barn to put the kids to bed.