Welcome!

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

May
May and I enjoying some sunshine
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Our Guest Bedroom: The End

Lovingly Posted by Melissa Tuesday, December 14, 2010 1 comments

Well, this is probably THE most overdue update as it stands today.  Our guest bedroom has been finished for almost a year now.  You may recall that we had to gut the room over a year ago due to some rotten studs we found in the walls when we replaced the old windows.  While we were at it we decided to move a wall so we'd be able to have a closet in the room instead of at the end of a narrow little hallway, which was detailed in this post if you'd like to re-live the action.  Things progressed slowly but steadily and we were so happy when we were able to finish it up and have a comfortable room for when we had family or friends stay over.

In celebration of our finished room, I'd love to present you with the before and after photos that I've been holding on to for so long.  So, here we go!

Back in February of 2009, we closed on our house and immediately got to work.  I recall that evening very clearly, it had been snowing and the roads were greasy.  We hit a pothole the size of my car and lost a couple hub caps but that couldn't dampen our spirits; we had just bought our first home.  When we arrived at the house we went upstairs and started ripping down wallpaper and tearing up flooring in the largest of the four rooms.  We had intended that this room be our master bedroom but changed our minds after realizing that the back of the house had less noise from the road.

This is what the guest bedroom looked like back when we moved in.  Complete with two low, cracked windows, layers of peeling wallpaper on the walls and ceiling, Congoleum on the floors, and a bare light dangling from a ten foot long cord.



After we got our hands on it we managed to update the wiring (which was done by a professional), re-insulate the walls, replace the windows, refinish the wide pine boards that were painted and hidden below the Congoleum, move a wall to not only create more floor space but provide a small walk-in closet in the room, install a ceiling fan light fixture, and paint.  We're pretty happy with the result.  Take a look.




As you can see, Kyle had created a small built-in shelf/cabinet next to the closet which has added a lot of character to the room.  Also, we found that if we hung the curtains from just below the ceiling we could trick the eye into thinking the windows were taller than they really are.  It also makes the ceiling feel higher.  We could still use some decoration on the walls, some pictures perhaps, but other than that we're pretty happy with the finished product.

So, there you have it folks!  The first room we ever finished in our house!  Still to come is the final before and after of our master bedroom and the nursery.  Stay tuned!

I'm Still Here

Lovingly Posted by Melissa Monday, December 6, 2010 3 comments

I have to thank you all for sticking around during my almost 2 month absence here on the blog.  I have no good excuse, and I hope to get back into writing regularly again now that I'm "back".  So, in my ridiculous effort to get you all caught up as to whats going on here at the Senesac Family Homestead, I give you this blog post- which will be the first of many long-overdue updates.  Bear with me.


The end of October brought a flurry of activity with the pending baby shower paired with the dining room renovation.  As the party was to be at our house (as we are rather centrally located for our family members) we wanted to be sure we didn't have bare sheet rock welcoming our guests into our house.  So, in the week and a half leading up to the shower Kyle tackled the taping and mudding of the sheet rock.  Instead of our typical technique of hand-sanding the seams, Kyle (in a stroke of brilliance, I swear) decided to pull out his orbital sander.  We were sure to put up plastic in all the doorways to try to keep the drywall dust migration to a minimum which worked relatively well.  The walls and ceilings ended up looking great- much smoother than when we would sand by hand- so we're sold on the new technique.

The weekend before the shower we had my Mom come down to help paint.  We purchased a VOC-free paint from the local hardware store in a dusty yellow-green color (can you tell we're suckers for green?).  We were able to get the entire room primed and painted in a single day.  I was psyched.  The room went from this:





To this:
*the paint is still a little wet in these photos so the walls look a little less than stellar*




Rest assured, nothing ever goes perfectly.  We ran into a little comic relief towards the end of the day when my Mom decided to be a joker and step into the paint can.  She says it was by accident but I'm pretty sure she just liked the color and thought her shoes could use a little update.  But a little bit of water and some uncontrollable laughter solved the problem and we quickly righted her shoe and sock, although I'm fairly sure her pants will never be quite the same again.



The floor still needs to be refinished and we have yet to find the perfect chandelier, but we've been making due with the light we removed from the nursery when we upgraded it a few months ago.  We were able to get the trim up and painted around all the doors and windows, so our dining room was perfectly presentable in time for our first baby shower at the end of October.  We had a lovely time with family and friends and were given many generous gifts in preparation for our little girl.

Speaking of which, our little girl (as it turns out) isn't all that little.  She's a little monster in there and the doctors are telling me that if she doesn't flip over soon (as she is currently head UP instead of head DOWN like she's supposed to be) they'll have to schedule me for a cesarean section.  I'm not terribly pleased, what with my feelings of wanting to keep things as natural and drug-free as absolutely possible, but in the end all that matters is that we are blessed with a healthy baby girl in late January.  Until then, I am blessed by being able to stay home, relax, and prepare for baby.  Almost a month ago, the doctors decided that I should stop working and thanks to my company's short-term disability plan we are able to afford this turn of events.

So, thats my modest update for today.  Please stick around- I hope to get another blog post up tomorrow to continue in my efforts to get you all caught up before the end of the year!

Our Renovation Weekend

Lovingly Posted by Melissa Thursday, October 21, 2010 3 comments

We were all geared up to get some work done on the house this past Saturday.  My Mom was coming down from Montgomery to help me with a bunch of little odds and ends in the rooms on our second floor, while Kyle was ready to really tackle the sheetrock in the dining room.  He had been whittling away at it through the end of the week, and was excited (if anyone can really be excited about hanging sheetrock) to have a full weekend to devote to covering the bare walls.

I was a little bummed to miss out on gathering drops over at Shelburne Orchards, but with time running out before the end of the year and baby getting bigger by the day, I was happy to help finish up some rooms.  Most of the upstairs (except for the hallway/stairwell) was finished for all intents and purposes.  So I hashed out a list of things to do in each room to keep my Mom and I busy.  We started in the guest bedroom, where the room has been mostly finished for the past year or so.  After installing a switch plate cover to the light switch in the closet, a door stop, and the hardware for the doors to the built-in cabinet Kyle made, we were finished.  One room down, three to go.

We moved on to the master bedroom which also needed a door stop as well as a second coat of paint on some of the trim.  We also hung a shelf on one of the walls, where I like to keep a mirror and some candles.  The closet also got a bit of an upgrade with the installation of some simple lights that we got from Ikea last month.  Two rooms down, two to go.

The nursery didn't need much that we could do (Kyle still had to install the new window to replace the broken, single-pane one) but we put on a coat of paint on the trim, attached the changing pad to the top of the refinished dresser, and installed a new light to replace the ugly brown one that had been plaguing the ceiling for the past couple of years.  We still need to get the dimmer switch installed but we weren't ready to cut the power to do that- so we left it for Kyle.

Finally, the bathroom has been sitting unfinished for...well, I honestly don't remember the last time we touched the bathroom.  I guess it was this past spring.  But with an additional coat of paint on the trim and wainscoting it was looking a little closer to being done.  We took the hooks off the back of the door so I could get up the towel bar (the old hooks were not only UGLY, but kind of dangerous if you ask me) and put a fresh coat of white paint on the door as well.

While we were toiling away upstairs Kyle was busy in the dining room, he managed to get the majority of the sheetrock finished, except for a few sheets on the ceiling that he finished hanging last night.  Things are really starting to come together in there.



I'll snap some more photos of the dining room tonight, because there really is such a difference having all the sheetrock up and the place cleaned up a bit.  But you get the general idea.

You may have noticed in the first picture a sneak peak of the kitchen.  We had been commenting earlier in the day about how awful it was going to be looking at the kitchen when the dining room is going to look so nice.  The kitchen, covered in layers of wallpaper, or just bits of primed sheetrock from when we had the new wiring installed, looked absolutely terrible.  It didn't help that the cabinets and the trim were painted some shade of aqua blue/green- not my favorite- with some stenciling in a dark green and even some stickers on the tops of the cabinets!  My darling Mother commented that we could throw a coat of paint on the walls and the trim that you can see through the doorway from the dining room just to get us by for now.

GREAT idea.

We primed the bench, the trim, and the walls before calling it a day.  I tackled the rest on Sunday, excited at the prospect of never having to look at the terrible color on the cabinets again.  I primed all the cabinets and threw a coat of paint on the walls that we had leftover from our bathroom renovation.  The color in these "After" pictures isn't quite true, the paint is actually a lot lighter and even a bit more yellow- but thats what I get for using a cheap point-and-shoot camera with no editing.  So, we'll all just have to make due.  So, without further ado, here is a brief 'before and after' of our kitchen.

Before (when we actually bought the house):

The horrible white appliance you see in this picture is actually a second freezer.  Our house came with two freezers, but no refridgerator.  We purchased a new one after we moved in, and placed it on a different wall, in hopes that someday we will open up the doorway a bit more.




After!






Apologies that the pictures aren't of the exact same views, but you get the idea.  =]  We still need to get a coat or two of paint on the cabinets (primer doesn't wash very well), and I'm going to spraypaint the plastic handles on all the doors/drawers to get us by until we can really renovate this room.  Maybe we'll get to that this weekend (the finishing touches, not the full renovation).  We shall see.

So thats the skinny, folks.  Like I said, I'll try to snap some more pictures tonight, I still have a long way to go in catching you up on all the 'before and after' pictures in the bedrooms and bathroom upstairs.  So stay tuned!!

What a weekend!

Lovingly Posted by Melissa Monday, October 18, 2010 0 comments

Holy cow were we busy this past weekend!!  The weather was so terrible it kept us from partaking in our "apple weekend" a la last year's but we were able to tackle so many projects, big and small, on the house (thanks to my Mom, for helping with all the little odds and ends!).  I'm so excited to share with you what we've been doing and I just can't believe how motivated my dear husband has been.  He's a machine I tell ya.

So, that being said, I haven't prepared any pictures yet so this is more of a little teaser.  No pictures, nothin.  But I promise to be back soon with a full update and some amazing pictures of whats been going on.  So, until tomorrow my friends!

My Favorite Renovation Project to Date.

Lovingly Posted by Melissa Wednesday, October 13, 2010 2 comments

For almost two years we've been dealing with a minor inconvenience regarding our house.  When you look at it from the road you see a total of three doors: one to the main part of the house, one to the addition, and one to the work shop.  Do you know how many doors you see when you look at the house from the back?  Zero.  Yep, our lovely, long house didn't have a single door leading straight to the back yard.  I'm only a little ashamed to admit that this kept us from spending more time back there.  In reality, when you're as busy as we are, the long walk around the house to the back yard was enough of an inconvenience to keep us from bothering with it.  So for the past year and a half we've talked about installing a nice sliding glass door in the back of the house in our dining room.

As we have been renovating the dining room for the past month or so we decided it was now or never.  We had originally planned to pay someone more experienced to install it for us but, as time was running out as quickly as our "excess" income, Kyle took one look at the exposed wall and thought to himself "I can do this".  That, paired with a free door that was salvaged from my Mom's house, was enough to get us jumpstarted into this long-anticipated project.



A few weeks ago, Kyle began work first thing in the morning.  We wanted to be sure to get as much done on Saturday because the weather report for Sunday wasn't quite as dry.  He measured the door no less than three times and marked the studs where he would have to cut and install a new header.  Because our floor in the dining room is a little slanted (this side of the house was an addition and the foundation wasn't perfectly in line with the old foundation) we had to be sure to make a level base to rest the door on as well.

After all the measurements were made, Kyle cut and removed the studs.  We quickly cleaned out around the work area and he put the new header in place which would be positioned just a little above the door frame.


Once the header and supporting studs were in, leveled, and solid we moved on to the scariest part: cutting the hole in the back of our house. 





This would the be one of the scariest things we have ever done, in my opinion.  Kyle was great, wore his safety goggles and everything, and using the reciprocating saw he managed to cut through the layers of siding relatively quickly.


Here is the ever-victorious man himself.  Champion of demolition.  Master of Sawsall. 

Ok, so once the hole was in the wall we had to quickly move on to the next most crucial part: installing the door itself.  We put it in place and started putting in shims on every side.  As we went we were sure everything was level and square- otherwise the door wouldn't be able to slide properly!  Luckily, the door had a great frame already on it so it was fairly easy for it to keep it's proper shape and before we knew it, the door was in!  We screwed it in place, put in the doors, and stepped back to admire our new view.



Pretty sweet if I do say so myself.  Later that afternoon we filled all the gaps with spray foam insulation designed for windows and doors (so as to not warp the frame with its pressure when it expands) and sealed all small cracks with silicone.  We also capped off the ends of the vinyl siding with special j-groove trim to keep the edges clean and rain water diverted away from the house and put up some lovely new trim around the door.  The door works like a charm and I L.O.V.E. it!! 

Stay tuned my friends, we've got a bunch more stuff in the works and the dining room renovation is in full swing!  Yahoo!

A Welcomed Addition to the Farm

Lovingly Posted by Melissa Monday, October 11, 2010 2 comments

Hi folks!

We've just been in a whirlwind of activity the past month or so and I am falling desperately behind on posting about our home renovations.  Progress is being made and I'm excited to share pictures with you.  I'm hoping to get a few posts up this week regarding the hearth pad and the dining room especially.  But as I still need to upload some pictures I won't be able to get to those topics today.  Instead, I just want to make quick introduction.

Blog friends and family, we are pleased to announce our newest addition to the farm, one that will enable us to keep pushing forward in our dreams of becoming self-sufficient.

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This, my dear friends, is NC PromisedLand Jokers Wild, who has come to us from our favorite Nigerian Dwarf Goat breeder, Sharon at Willow Moon Farm.  Joker is the first male to be welcomed to our farm on a permanent basis- he'll be servicing our does in the months to come.  As our girls are not quite ready to be bred, the younger ones especially, we're keeping this sweet little guy up at my Mom's house with her eight wethers where he has plenty of company and generally stays out of trouble.  Once we have our buck house built and a buckling born on the farm we'll be able officially welcome him home.

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Isn't he just the cutest?  Ok, so he'll be one big stud muffin in a couple more months but until then I'm going to call him "cute".  This little guy will enable us to breed all our girls later this fall and winter so we'll be milking five does next year.  This should provide our family with plenty of milk and I hope to start dabbling in cheese making and bit of goat's milk soap.

But this is just the start, stay tuned for all the excitement to come!

Dining Renovation- Part 1

Lovingly Posted by Melissa Tuesday, September 28, 2010 0 comments

A couple weeks ago, demolition of our house moved to a whole new level, literally.  We are getting ready to install our woodstove in a couple weeks which means we have to prepare walls and a hearth.  Piggie-backing that project is the renovation of our dining room.  So, after stopping over at Johnson Farm and Garden for some chicken feed and a quick dinner of veggies and beans with spinach gnocchi, Kyle broke out the reciprocating saw and crow bar and got to work on the wall dividing our dining room from our living room.


*This is a picture of our dining room as it was when we bought the house back in February of 2009- we had since torn up the carpet and stained the hardwood flooring that was revealed below.*

I was quarantined to either the yard or our bedroom because who really knows what could be lurking in those walls, and we don't want to risk the health of our baby.  Kyle donned one of our ventilator masks, hung up some plastic in an effort to keep the dust corralled, and within a couple hours he had successfully opened up the space.  We were shocked to find out that the studs within that wall were there purely to aid in the hanging of the lath and plaster.  Thats right, there was no header supporting the floor above.  You really never know what you're going to find in old houses, and this one has really taken the cake so far.

Kyle removed those few studs last week (since they weren't structural there was no need to keep them) so we could get working on our hearth pad and the wall behind where our woodstove will go and moved the outlet and switch to a new wall so we could hook the power back up.  Then the fun began- I watched as my husband gleefully ripped down the drop ceiling that we've hated ever since we moved in.  Who puts a drop ceiling and a flourescent light in a dining room!?  He uncovered the handiwork of our electrician and got a good look at the condition of the plaster and lath ceiling- it looked like crap, but still an improvement if you ask me! 


Last weekend he moved the wiring off of the ceiling and disconnected a few lines to outlets we didn't need right now.  And the demo officially began.  We hired out a local guy to help Kyle with ripping down the plaster and lath since I would be no help at all.  Luckily, in the stripping of the ceiling, they uncovered a massive header where the house originally ended and the new addition began.  So it wasn't just hanging there in space as we originally imagined.  Kyle and Saul we able to get the rest of the plaster and lath stripped by the end of last week and we were finally able to clean up and remove the plastic sheeting (trust me, walking outside to get to the kitchen was getting REAL old).

Over this past weekend we took on a project that we had originally planned on paying someone to do.  We drove up to Montgomery Friday night to retrieve the sliding glass door from my Mom's house that she no longer wanted and set our eyes on getting it installed by the end of the weekend.  We had three doors in the front of our long house but no doors going out to the back yard.  We've been wanting to get a door installed so we could quickly and easily get to the back yard and the garden below but never got around to getting quotes for the installation.  Last week Kyle decided he wanted to tackle it himself and I, the ever-supportive wife, went along for the ride.  I'll fill you in on that one next time.

Our Hearth- Part 1

Lovingly Posted by Melissa Thursday, September 23, 2010 1 comments

Saturday was a busy day of home renovating which, luckily, kept us sneaking back outside into the welcoming sunshine that we've missed for what seems like an eternity.  It was the kind of day that leaves you tired and sore where you just feel like huddling under the down comforter with a cup of hot chocolate and a good book by the end of the day.  We had spent the morning buying supplies to build our hearth pad for our wood stove.  The plan is to move it in this Friday evening with the help of a few friends and more than a couple beers followed by a hearty, homemade dinner made by yours truly.  As I am carrying our little bundle of joy I will not be partaking in the moving of the wood stove and the drinking of the beer- a fair tradeoff if I do say so myself.

We returned home, had a quick brunch of eggs and pork sausage (both from our farm which always makes my appetite a little more ravenous), and got to work on the hearth pad.  Kyle cut up the 3/4" plywood to a four by four foot square according to the specs provided by our owners manual for our stove and we laid it in place.  **All hearth pad sizes depend on your stove, so if you're looking to tackle this project, be sure and do your research first.**  Once we had it where we wanted it I screwed it down every 4-6 inches with leftover hardibacker screws from when we tiled our bathroom.

While Kyle cut up the cement board I cleaned off our four stones that we bought from the local landscaping place.  They had road dust and red clay on them that needed to be removed and allowed to dry before we attempt to secure them in place on top of the cement board.  Tile would have been less expensive, but considering the R value that these 2" thick stones add, we figured the added safety and thermal mass was well worth the extra $50.  I began cleaning them off just with our hose and my bare hands.  Well, I can tell you now that isn't a good idea.  Halfway through cleaning off the four stones I realized that my fingertips were being slowly sanded down by the bluestone, so I grabbed the pushbroom to scrub the clay off, which worked much better anyways.


While the stones were drying in the sunshine I secured the cement board atop the plywood with more of the hardibacker screws- again, every 4-6 inches, to be sure there would be no flex when we lay down the thinset and stone.  Its amazing how this normally simple project wore me out now that I'm a little less able to bend at the waist.  My baby bump kept me shifting from position to position, searching for that perfect combination of leverage and abdominal comfort.  But I'm convinced that when it comes to working on the floor, there is no such combination when you're pregnant.


Once the cement board was down and the stones were dry, Kyle brought them into the house and we began laying them down so we could decide on their placement.  They are approximately two by two foot stones, so the combinations were fairly limited, which was fine with Kyle since they weighed a fair bit.  We decided on placement and I marked each stone on the back with a number and an X in the corner that would be in the center of the pad so we would know where it belonged.  We rested them on a few towels not far from the hearth pad and called it a day.

They've Arrived!

Lovingly Posted by Melissa Tuesday, September 21, 2010 3 comments

Saturday evening we heard some peeping from the hayloft and sure enough the eggs had hatched!!  We ended up with seven new chicks.  This spot in the hayloft had been the favorite spot for all the hens to lay their eggs so we got quite a variety from our broody Dominique.  You can only see one of the chicks in this picture here- they were just born when I took this picture and most were still hiding underneath the hen.


As soon as we saw them up there we grabbed our chick-sized water font (the rubber tub we had up there for the hen just wasn't going to cut it for obvious reasons) and barricaded them in so they couldn't fall out if they wandered.  But last night we moved them to the ground in front of our house with a small house and a fenced-in yard where they could wander, eat grass, and be safe with their "mama" hen.  Hopefully I'll get a chance to take some more pictures tonight when they're out and about because when we moved them last night they were either inside their shelter or huddled underneath the Dominique most of the time.

Nursery Renovation

Lovingly Posted by Melissa Thursday, September 16, 2010 2 comments

My dear friends, there are so many home renovation projects I need to post about its not even funny.  Almost the entire second floor of our house is finished and I have neglected to say anything about it!  So, in my efforts to get caught up, here is the lowdown on our renovation of our nursery!

Back in February of 2009, when we bought our house, we were faced with a lovely old farmhouse with not-so-lovely rooms.  There was either floor to floor carpet (even indoor/outdoor carpet in the dining room), or congoleum throughout the house.  On all other surfaces (yes that includes the ceilings) there was layer upon layer of wallpaper, minus the dining room that has a lovely drop ceiling.  The night we closed on our house we began renovations- we ripped down wallpaper and pulled up congoleum flooring and we've been going ever since.

One of our favorite rooms, just because it provided such a good laugh, was a little room located immediately at the top of our stairs.  We affectionately referred to it as "the carpet sample room", and you can see from the picture why; it was floored with 12x12 carpet samples, stapled or nailed to the floor.  Unfortunately, as a condition for our loan through VHFA, we were required to rip up the carpet samples and lay down new carpet into that room.  We weren't thrilled at all, we hate carpet, but because the floor was a little less than perfect we decided that it would just be easier to have carpet installed rather than level the floor to lay down wood anyway.

We began by ripping out everything- unfortunately I failed to take pictures of this process- from floor to ceiling.  After getting the new wiring finished (we had to have the whole house re-wired because it had the old knob and tube wiring) and reinsulating the whole room, we started our first sheetrock project.  It is far from perfect, slanted walls and irregular stud-depth made for quite a challenge, but we finished it and had the carpet installed.  Amazingly, once it was in, I loved it.  For a year we left it alone, kind of a spare room where we stored random junk that we didn't want out in the workshop or down in the basement.  But back in March we discovered we'd be welcoming a new member to the family and decided we'd best get things in order.

The room seemed dark due to the wall of wood paneling that we left up, so Kyle framed in the wall, added more insulation, and hung sheetrock to cover it.  The result was dramatic, it suddenly felt clean and airy. 

We picked out a light green paint for the walls and enlisted my Mom to help paint a mural on the lower portion of the walls. 

We hung a chair rail to divide the mural from the rest of the wall and put up the rest of the trim.  We were lucky to have been given a crib, as well as some other baby gear, from my cousin Jill and her husband, Tim.

The highchair is a handmade gift from my uncle, Jeff, when he came up for our wedding in June of 2009.

The only thing left to do is refinish the dresser which I will be turning into a changing table, install a new light, and generally get some additional pieces of furniture and art to flesh out the room.  I'll let you in on a little secret, I already refinished the dresser- I'll share that mini-makeover with you soon I promise!

Brooding

Lovingly Posted by Melissa Tuesday, September 7, 2010 0 comments

Hey folks.  So apparently I'm not the only one working on new additions to the family.  After the arrival of our friend's roosters there was, apparently, some hanky panky with our hens.  When we went away for a long weekend to Washington DC last month we had a Black Australorp brooding in one of our nesting boxes.  We were so excited!  After loosing so many chickens to those darned pigs we were looking forward to having some "freebies" to add to our flock.

Unfortunately, when we returned we found that one of the neighborhood kids had stopped in and put all our eggs in a bucket for us.  So we lost those and the hen hasn't shown any interest in brooding since.  I was very disappointed because those Australorps are some pretty and birds and they lay big eggs.  But, it just wasn't meant to be I guess.

Lucky for us, hiding up in the hayloft, one of the Dominiques has been sitting on a pile of eggs for a couple weeks now.  She is very diligent and I'm hoping we'll end up with some new babies in another week or two.  The timing probably could have been better as the days are getting shorter and the temperatures are getting a little lower, but if need be we can move them into a seperate area where we can have a heat lamp set up.  As it is they will have to be seperated from the rest of the flock until they are a lot more mobile.  I don't want to run the risk of the babies being attacked by the other chickens.

Exciting stuff!

The Deere is gone.

Lovingly Posted by Melissa Wednesday, September 1, 2010 2 comments

Well folks- our lawn is pretty upset right now.  The grass hasn't been mowed in ages, some of the blades are yellowing...its not a pretty sight.  We had been having trouble with the lawn tractor all summer, it kept breaking belts.  Granted, the sucker wasn't in the best of shape, but when it mowed it MOWED.  The thing that really disappointed us was that the main reason we got a lawn tractor was for the snowblower attachment.  We figured we could save ourselves some cash if we could just clear our driveway ourselves.  Well, it worked, we didn't pay anyone to plow our driveway, but we ended up shoveling it more often than not.

So, after a year long love/hate relationship with our 214 (we bought it used from a fella we spotted on Craigslist) we decided to break up.  Kyle posted it and two days later it was sold- luckily the guy who bought it knows all about the crappy snowblowing and the issues we have with the mower- and he still wanted it.  So now we're mower-less.  Our thought is that maybe, just maybe, we could get away with paying someone to mow our lawn once this month and maybe we can let it go for the rest of the year.  Then, we'll look for an affordable walk-behind snowblower (our driveway is just too big to shovel and seeing as I'll either be massively pregnant or taking care of a newborn this winter, I don't forsee shoveling in my near future).

While we know what we want to do regarding the snow/driveway, we are completely unsure what to do next year for our grass.  We could get away with mowing just the upper lawn if we had enough animals to keep the grass down in the lower section.  And, lets face it, a handful of little goats and a flock of chickens don't really have the capability to knock down almost three acres of grass.  So the question is- do we want to invest in some sheep?  I'd love to get couple sheep so I could make some handspun yarn, but I'm not sure if it makes much sense financially.  Maybe a small horse?  One vote for the horse....one vote for a dirtbike....damn.

So the search is on.  We're seriously considering getting a reel mower so we don't have to worry about the gas and the noise (and lets face it, there are fewer things that can break on a non-motorized mower), but that definitely doesn't solve the whole dilemma.  Does anyone have any suggestions?  Perhaps there are some options we haven't come up with yet?

Another year of firsts.

Lovingly Posted by Melissa Monday, August 30, 2010 2 comments

Last year had been a whirlwind of firsts.  Our first house, marriage, goats and chickens.  We made it through in full force last year and haven't slowed down yet.  Kyle and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary this year.  We had decided not to go overboard in the name of frugality- so it was a day without cards or flowers or gifts.  We both agreed afterwards that this had been a mistake, but we're good at learning from our mistakes.  Days like that, the day of two lives joining together as one, should always be met with a celebration of some kind.  Our wedding day had been perfect.

Its hard to believe that over a year has passed already since we tied the knot and I'm beginning to realize just how quickly these years are passing now.  So much has happened in the past few years, especially in this past year.  I look back to where I was five or six years ago and compare that to where I am today and I am exceedingly thankful and satisfied with the difference.  Life has a purpose.

I've said it before, our life is no picnic, we work hard at our jobs and we come home to work hard some more.  We have to work through disagreements and sometimes have our days where we just don't get along.  But things are always worked out.  We're two peas in a pod- two very stubborn peas.  The kind that keep coming back in your garden year after year despite how sure you are that you got them all out at harvest time.  Yeah, we're those peas.

Kyle and I have always shared our goals and our dreams with eachother- so even early on in our relationship we talked about our feelings about money, relationships, marriage, and even children.  We are lucky that we share the same views on all these things, it has made our relationship much smoother.  (As I said before: two peas.)  Instead of arguing about what to do with our money we get to focus on more important things, like how old Meryl Streep is or how long it takes to drive from our house to New York City.  You know, stuff like that.

After giving it lots of thought, we decided to take action on one of the previously mentioned topics of discussion.  We're having a baby.  This was one of the main culprits for our lack of anniversary-celebration this year, I admit, we had all these fun activities for the day planned but as my "morning sickness" lasted throughout the day it made it difficult to want to eat out or take the kayaks for a swim. 

SO!  Now that the cat is officially out of the bag I'm hoping to get back into my regularly scheduled blog posting as I've got tons to update you all on regarding the house and nursery.  Talk about renovation nation going on at casa Senesac- we're pushing to get the entire second floor finished by the end of the year!  Plus the dining room!  OH and getting our chimeny/woodstove installed next month!  Plenty of goings-on and I hope you'll stay tuned for all the long-overdue updates!

So folks, thats the big news that I've been holding on to.  My estimated due date is January 26 (which puts me at almost 5 months right now).  You can see in the picture below I've started "showing" as it is so lovingly called- note the elastic waistband pants and my prepregnancy t-shirt that just isn't long enough anymore.

A Frustrating Loss

Lovingly Posted by Melissa Thursday, August 26, 2010 0 comments

As I mentioned in a previous post, we clipped our chickens' flight feathers a few weeks ago.  It was great for a few days; they stayed in their pasture.  After the initial few days of perfectly behaved chickens, just a few were found on our front yard but then as the days passed more and more would be found outside their fenced-in area.  They stuck to just our yard for quite a while, but lately they have been venturing further and further away again as they did before we clipped their wings.

I'm not sure what to do at this point.  With almost fifty chickens a movable "chicken tractor" seems like it would have to be too large and cumbersome to work.  It may be a combination of a few small holes in our fencing that need to be patched and the fact that they can jump up on our wooden gate to escape, both of these things need to be fixed in the next few weeks.  Hopefully that will remedy the problem because we suffered our first loss yesterday due to a wandering hen.  The poor thing was hit by a car when she walked all the way down the road to where our relatively quiet dirt road meets a paved road where people drive way too fast.  It was no suprise, it was just a matter of time really, but it's just so frustrating.

I just don't get it.  We have tons of grass, sun, shade, and plenty of dirt and pebbles in our driveway.  I don't understand what keeps calling these birds away from our yard.  I hope we can get them corralled again soon, I'd hate to lose anymore.

A Quick Farm Update

Lovingly Posted by Melissa Monday, August 16, 2010 2 comments

We recently inherited another ten chickens from our friend who moved a couple weeks ago.  Along with the Buckeye and Barred Rock laying hens were four Buckeye roosters.  As I helped Stu unload them from the back of his truck I was a little nervous; we're on pretty good terms with our neighbors and we'd really prefer to keep it that way.  I stood there at the fence after he left, watching the dynamics of the flock to be sure there wasn't going to be any huge fights, especially with the roosters.  They are still young enough that they haven't developed their spurs so they can't do as much damage.  Things settled down fairly quickly after some dueling here and there with some of the larger Australorp hens and the roosters.  I'm hoping that we'll be able to keep one or two of the roosters so we can replenish our flock, but we'll have to wait and see how noisey they are once they settle in.  It seems like they're doing their job, though, because for the past few days one of the Australorps has been happy to stay in one of the nesting boxes.

The goats are doing well.  Juniper's leg healed fantastically and she's gotten to where she doesn't have a limp and can run and jump just as well as the other two girls.  I feel a small sense of accomplishment with that.  Our attempts at milking Chutney were a bust.  Between her unwillingness to stand still and the small size of her teats due to being a first freshener made it infuriatingly difficult to get much milk.  We've been considering investing in a larger goat that would be easier for us both (especially Kyle since he has larger hands) to milk.  But we'll see how that goes.

The second swarm that stopped by one of our trees left last weekend.  Kyle had just finished building the top bar hive and we placed it under the swarm.  It was getting late in the day and we were both exhausted, so we thought we'd give them the night and the next morning to think about checking out the hive on their own before trying to drop them into the box.  The next morning we awoke and found that they had left.  Our own hive is doing well, though, we're ready to take a few frames out to harvest a bit of honey.  Kyle is hoping it will help with his allergies- the poor guy has been congested for weeks.

Finally, our garden.  I was so excited about the garden this year; I was so determined to make it a success.  Well, my friends, you know the saying about good intentions, right?  Unfortunately we've met some difficulty here as well.  We went down to the garden last week to find something had chewed the stalks of our tomato plants that had been doing so well.  They were lost.  Not only that, the black beans are being systematically attacked by something as well.  They were looking great a few weeks ago, but I checked them one day to find a patch of the bed had been demolished, then a few days later, more plants were gone.  I'm not sure what we'll be left with, but I'm not holding out much hope.

The few plants that appear to be doing amazingly well are our summer squash, carrots, beets, and potatoes.  Of course, its hard to say what is going on underneath the potato plants, but I can only hope they are doing well.  Hopefully we'll have enough to save for seed potatos for next year.  Seeing our difficulty with this garden for the second year in a row, we've decided to re-evaluate our garden plans.  Being such non-green-thumbs, why did we decide to take on such a large plot?  Well, because it is there and we were determined to make it work.  Under other circumstances, perhaps if we didn't have the goats, chickens, house renovations, full time jobs, and a multitude of other things, we could have pushed through and made our garden a success.  But, we're too new at this and it was just unrealistic for us.

So, next year we're going to do a smaller garden.  Smaller, but happier.  We're considering moving it up to be right next to the house, on our small, south-facing lawn.  There, not only would it be potentially safer from critters (because the dogs are up there more often), but it is closer to the spigot so we don't have to drag five hoses all the way down the hill and back to water it when necessary.  But my favorite reason for moving it is that we'd be able to see it easily from our picture window.  When things are ripe we'll know sooner so we can grab them and we'd be more apt to weed more often if we see it every day.  So we'll start small and once we get the hang of that, we'll add another bed or two, and so on until we get to where we want to be.

So thats the plan my friends.  Just because things aren't going well doesn't mean we throw in the towel, we take a step back and see what we're doing wrong and what we can do to improve.  We'll get there.  Rome wasn't built in a day, right?  It takes time.  We'll get there.

Swarming Season

Lovingly Posted by Melissa Thursday, August 5, 2010 0 comments

Wowzers.  A few weekends ago, Kyle and I got home from a neighbor's funeral to find a mass of bees flying around the truck.  I was immediately concerned that it was our bees so suited up to check on our hive.  After checking a few frames and being satisfied with what I found on my hive inspection I went back up to the house to enjoy the show.  The sound of tens of thousands of bees flying through the air was amazing.

After just a few more minutes the chaos of flying bees quickly turned into a solid mass that had attached itself to a couple branches in one of the trees next to our house.  I stared up at them and wished that they had landed on a lower branch where we might have been able to transfer them to a second hive (not that we currently HAVE a second hive...but I had plans to whip up a quick Top Bar Hive).  I mean, FREE BEES people!  Seriously!  How could I pass this up?



After a few days of trying to convince Kyle to build this new hive for me he finally began.  The main box was mostly finished, we just needed the top bars for the bees to build their comb on.  Well, the day after this first part was completed the bees had left.  They had found a suitable new home somewhere and were nowhere to be found.  I was seriously bummed.

But last night, Kyle went out to play with Ollie in the back yard and came back into the house to say that there was another swarm of bees in the yard.  This time they are on a smaller tree, and quite low to the ground.  I didn't get a chance to get down there to check it out, but I'm hoping they'll stick around for a few days to allow us time to try to finish the hive.  Then, perhaps I will try to physically move them to their new home.

Summer Reflections

Lovingly Posted by Melissa Wednesday, July 21, 2010 1 comments

What the heck happened to the first half of July!?  We're in the final two weeks of this month and we're getting perilously close to August, the month of school supplies and talk of fall.  Thinking back to what we've done so far this summer, I'm a little sad to say that we've only been out in the kayaks a handful of times, hiked even less, and have yet to pull my bikes out of the work shop.  It always amazes me how quickly time flies, and yes, I'll agree that it gets faster with each year.

But, fall is a great time of year in Vermont.  At least until stick season when everything just looks too bare for comfort.  So there is still plenty of time to get out in those boats, and on the trails, and maybe even wear down some tires as well.  Winter seems to take its time getting here, it hangs on for sure, but real snow fall doesn't show its face usually until January.  Sure it'll be freezing and bitter, and I'll long for Spring to come, but this year we'll have our woodstove.  There's nothing quite like the dry heat that radiates from the belly of a cast iron and hearthstone beast, and I'll smile at its flickering glow each night.

But lets not get to ahead of ourselves, right?  After all, summer is barely a month old now and I'm certainly not showing it the door.  Over the weekend we harvested some lovely little beets and planted a new crop of peas, carrots, and salad greens.  The garden hadn't been touched in (dare I say it?) at least a month and a half and lets just say it didn't look like much of a garden.  My Mom came down to help give me a boost and we tackled it all amazingly enough, and not too soon either because the next day it rained.  The garden is looking lovely again.

The bees have been enoying their 'front porch', as Kyle calls it, lately with all this heat.  Most days when I come home from work there are a fair few out on the front of the hive, cooling off.  I need to get in there and check on the honey stores and the brood to be sure all is well.  Its just so hard to 'suit up' with the sweltering heat, hopefully now with the temperatures regulating again I'll be able to bring myself to get out there.

Things around the farm have been going well.  The absence of the pigs has been felt mostly during feeding time, when the familiar sounds of oinks, grunts, and squeels are decidedly absent.  Juniper's leg has been healing over the past few weeks in her splint.  I'm going to take it off this weekend and see how she does walking without it.  We may set up Ollie's old dog crate for her to stay in to keep the other girls from jostling her around too much during the first couple days.  And of course, the chickens are doing well, they come and go as they please and lately have been spending the early morning hanging out in front of our porch hoping for an early breakfast.  One was at the front door this morning, clucking at me through an open window.

Last night I took some down time in our hammock, with Juniper and Poppy on my lap, while Kyle brought the bigger girls down the rock face to the taller brush in our lower field.  There was something so calming about swaying under the canopies of three giant maple trees with two tiny ruminants chewing their cud, their eyes barely staying open.  Sometimes it dawns on me what my life has come to mean and I am humbled by it.

Another story comes to a close.

Lovingly Posted by Melissa Friday, July 16, 2010 1 comments

Can you believe its that time already?  It seems like only yesterday that we stuffed these four boys into the back of the Scion Xa and welcomed them to their new home.  They were so little then.  I remember thinking how cute they all were and how hard it would be when the time came for them to be butchered.  Over the past months they've grown amazingly fast considering they were raised mostly on bread, kitchen scraps, and whatever was growing in their pasture- with a bit of grain supplementation just to be sure they were getting enough calories.


They've escaped more than once.  And even once went over to our neighbor's house and greeted him in his garage while we were up north visiting my Mom.  They've eaten over a dozen chickens (I guess I should have added that to the tally of their diet above).  But they've added a bit of entertainment to our daily routine as well.  I've seen pigs racing around like its a big game of tag and the occasional wipe-out or somersault.  I've seen them hunker down next to a fire and then race around in a circle like a dog chasing its tail after they've warmed up.  Then in the summer's heat we would pull out the hose to spray them down in the afternoons and watch as they each volleyed for the best spot to get as much of the cold water as possible.  And of course they took their turns in the water trough.

Since January these boys have been members of the family; we named them, nutured them, and scratched their faces when they seemed to want more than just food.  This morning at 5:30 I opened the door to meet Randy Locke, our meat processor.  He arrived promptly when he said he would with his red truck and a couple helping hands in tow.  After the initial, "seriously?  they're in that big pasture back there?" I retreated back to the house as Kyle went out just in case any of the boys got spooked and ran away.  It was over so quickly.  No drama.  No terror.  When it came down to it, I just didn't have the heart to watch our boys meet their end, but Kyle reported that it appeared to be quick and painless.  One by one they fell, the others standing by, not understanding, but unafraid.

Knowing that four more lives have been sacrificed for us and our family is a hard reality to face, and I'm not ashamed to say that I shed a few tears even now as I write this.  Life is a treasure and I am honored to be a part of it for every being on our farm.  I feel we honor their memory at every meal, giving thanks for the life that has passed so that we may continue on.  Again, we are given peace by the knowledge that we gave these pigs far better a life than most ever see.  But the passing of a life is never easy and despite my readiness for today, in a way, I mourn the loss.

A moment of bliss

Lovingly Posted by Melissa Thursday, July 8, 2010 2 comments

Last night, Kyle and I got lazy and decided to just do sandwiches for dinner.  With the sweltering heat and humidity lately neither of us has had any inspiration to cook much.  We had thawed out one of our broilers so Kyle pulled it out to cut off the meat.  We were left with a couple, medium-sized chicken breasts that he graced with some salt and peppers and threw on the grill.  The rest of the chicken was cut up into chunks and placed into the crock pot with a couple cups of water to simmer on low for the evening.  There was no way I was going to get water boiling on the stove in almost 100 degree weather.  We'd use this for chicken tacos later this week, perhaps tonight, with some black beans and salsa.

Our dinner consisted of some homegrown chicken breast between a few slices of homemade bread (honey and butter bread, courtesy of my dear Mother) and some lettuce that we happily plucked from the garden.  The only thing not homemade was the stone ground mustard that I slathered on one of my slices of bread.  It was the most satisfying dinners we've had in a while.  We sat in our living room, in the relative coolness of our house, and enjoyed our sandwiches with a glass of sun tea.  After having such a hectic weekend and week it was a welcomed respite and I daydreamed about a homegrown BLT.  Soon my friends, soon.

Damage Control

Lovingly Posted by Melissa Wednesday, July 7, 2010 2 comments

Our lives need a little drama here and there.  It keeps things interesting.  Without the drama we might not appreciate the little moments of peace that we are graced with every so often.  But sometimes those drama-filled moments are enough to make us sit, place our faces in our hands and just take a moment to breathe and pray for a positive outcome.

Friday afternoon, a couple hours before I got home from work, Kyle was outside checking on the pigs.  We had moved them back under the trees so they could tear up the ground a bit before the meat processor comes to get them next Friday.  While he was outside he heard a scream from the barn and ran to see what it was.  Apparently, Juniper had jumped up on the top of the manger, got her left front foot stuck between a couple boards and then tried to jump down.  We had plywood on top of the manger to try to keep chicken droppings from getting down into the hay, we never thought much about the tiny gap at one end, but these girls' feet are so tiny, they can fit in just about anything.  Needless to say, the manger has been moved, and a new, safer cover has been attached.

But the damage was done.  Kyle thought that maybe it was just sprained because she seemed to be moving around relatively well.  Her adrenaline must have been running because any time we'd go out to try to catch her to take a better look she'd just run.  I didn't want to aggrevate the condition so we decided to leave it until Saturday morning when we fed them breakfast.  Sure enough, Saturday morning brought us the truth.  Her leg was very swollen and obviously broken.  We ran to Johnson Farm and Garden to pick up some rolls of Vet Wrap and a couple wooden paint stirrers.

When we got home I gave Juniper a baby asprin and started icing her leg to try to help the swelling go down a bit.  Then, while Kyle held her, I felt her leg and carefully pulled on her hoof and fetlock to be sure all the bones were straight and where they should be.  Using a clean, old sock, I padded one side of each of the paint stirrers and made sure they were just long enough to extend just a little past her hoof.  With one paint stirrer on the inside of her leg, and the other on the outside I carefully wrapped all the way up her leg with a few lengths of the Vet Wrap.  Once I was finished with the splint we held her up to the higher branches of the surrounding trees so she could get some of the leaves as a treat.

After a few minutes of greedily eating leaves, we set Juniper down to see how she fared with the splint.  She's still working on three legs, but she can put her other foot down when she wants and it won't put any weight on the broken leg.  If not for the leg she looks fine; her eyes are bright, she eats and drinks with as much energy and enthusiasm that we are used to seeing in her, her rumen is working well, and her digestive system is working fine.  It is a relief.

We've had to re-wrap the bandage a couple times already, it kept getting pulled down a little too far, I think its because she drags it when she goes to lay down.  But last night I used a piece of the wrap over the top of her shoulders which I think should eliminate the problem.  She seems to be doing well, though, she can even run around again and climb on things, which is good to see.  We gave her a baby asprin each day for a few days, just to help with any pain or swelling.  But even when we re-wrapped her leg on Sunday the swelling was completely gone.  So I'm confident that as long as we are diligent at being sure her wrap is in place, things will heal well.

I just feel horrible that the cause of her injury was something that we neglected to recognize as a possible danger.  Sometimes it takes some drama to get you looking at things in a different way.  But if you ask me, I'm ready for some drama-free days now, thankyouverymuch.

Renovations moving along now.

Lovingly Posted by Melissa Wednesday, June 30, 2010 1 comments

On Monday, I had my first day back at work after taking a week off to spend with Kyle for our first anniversary.  As always I had a ton of work to catch up on and, before I knew it, the day was over and I was headed home.  I stopped at the grocery store to pick up some items and drop off a handful of movies at the Redbox kiosk that we had rented a couple days earlier.  I pulled into our driveway, herded a few stray chickens back into our yard and greeted Kyle on his way out of the house.  We've been thinking about clipping the chickens' wings and the further they venture into the neighbor's yard the more we think its for the best.  Our original plan had been to let them be, but they have been wandering further and further away and spend too much time on other people's property, or in the road, for our liking.  We shall see.

After feeding everyone out in the barn we returned to the house for some downtime and I got a good look at what my husband had been up to all day.  Apparently, Kyle had just as busy a day as I had.  In my absence he had relocated our bed to the guest room so he could begin working on finishing our master bedroom.  By the time I had returned home he had taken down all the bead-board and trim (carefully enough that we should be able to reuse it all, yippy!) and ripped down the plaster and lathe.  We were not suprised to see a lack of adequate insulation, which is exactly why we wanted to tackle this project in the first place.  But we were pleasantly suprised to see that so far all the studs appear to be in great condition.

He was just about finished putting up sheetrock over the second half of our ceiling.  The room is divided by a long header and one side of the room has a ceiling that is fine, the other side was a little less than lovely.  He had also been sanding and mudding the sheetrock that he put up in the "carpet sample" room over the weekend to cover the horrid, old "wood" paneling.  We're close to being finished with this room and as we move along to the master bedroom I'm beginning to think our goal of finishing the upstairs before the end of the year is a little more feasible.

We're hoping to have the insulation and sheetrock finished in our room by the end of the weekend, and begin the painting of the "carpet sample" room any day now.  Things are really rolling!

Waiting....and waiting....and waiting....

Lovingly Posted by Melissa Monday, June 28, 2010 1 comments

Hey folks!  I'm not sure if anyone is following the "ticker" on the sidebar for May's due date but if you have (and probably now, if you haven't) noticed that it isn't counting down anymore that is for a very good reason.  We've officially flown past her due date.  Today marks the sixth day since she was due to kid.  I've sent a note to our breeder to ask for advice.  I know it is common enough for goats to kid up to five days early or five days late- but I didn't really think we'd make it this far along.  She still has her tiny udder and her tail ligaments are solid as can be.  I keep expecting to go out each morning to find a new kid in the barn but nothing yet.  I've read that it is possible for does to create an udder without being pregnant, but I just think the timing is too perfect for it to be this.  She started her udder exactly when she should have for a pregnant doe getting into her last month of gestation.  So, nothing we can do now but keep waiting...

Escapees

Lovingly Posted by Melissa Thursday, June 17, 2010 0 comments

We drove into the city last night for a lovely dinner in Burlington for my sister-in-law's birthday.  Its always nice going out with family.  The way home felt long, though; I was exhausted and lingered somewhere between sleep and gazing, dazed, out the window.  Kyle and I were discussing the next big home renovation now that the guest room and upstairs bathroom were finished and sometimes its just a bit overwelming when there is so much to do.  But we arrived home and there was a sweet, mild breeze in the air that greeted us.  I went out to the barn to shut in the goats and chickens for the night while Kyle checked on the pigs, who had been moved back under the trees next to the house.

We scheduled a date with the meat processor for July 16th, a mere month away, and we wanted to try to get them to eat the greenery and till up the soil there before they left us.  They were happily running around, like the pig races you see at the fair, and we watched them for a little while before heading inside.  As I was getting into bed half an hour later the dogs started barking wildly.  I looked out the front windows to see a neighbor's friend leaving our front yard- he must have been at our door a minute ago.  I mentioned it to Kyle as I looked out the back window- the pigs were out.

I hastily threw my jeans on again as I watched Freddy make a bee-line for our freshly planted garden, the other three were ahead of him in the tall grasses.  I ran downstairs to grab my boots hoping that the novelty of being loose would keep Freddy from exploring the soft soil in our garden beds.  Sure enough, by the time I rounded the corner to the back of the house they had moved on and were headed for the road.  I freaked at the realization that they really were loose and not contently eating grass in our backyard like they had done the few times they escaped before.

As I called them from the top of the hill, carefully picking my way down along the edge of the drop-off, Kyle arrived with a bucket of grain.  As soon as they saw him they forgot all about their adventure and trailed along back to the barn.  We're lucky the neighbor stopped by, if we had gone to bed with the pigs loose, who knows where they would have ended up, or the damage they could have done.  Once they were safely back in their fenced-in pasture we surveyed the electric-net fence that we hastily put up over the weekend.  Brick Top must have been chasing one of them because it appeared that one of the pigs had gone straight through the fence, leaving a nice hole in the netting.  I'll have to fix that so we can resume using it for the goats and chickens.

So, now the task is to get a better fence up out there for the next few weeks so they can continue eating the grass and ferns.  Kyle has the next two weeks off so he'll have plenty of time to work on fencing.  But I'll say it again, I'm ready for some bacon.  Pigs.

Gardening Update

Lovingly Posted by Melissa Tuesday, June 15, 2010 0 comments

Last week we were fully into June and our garden had yet to be planted besides a few cold weather plants here and there.  The major road block was that we hadn't touched our garden beds in weeks and the weeds took up residence with a vengance.  All our lovely rye grass and crimson clover that I planted last fall as a cover crop really burst into life and the beds looked more wild than ever.  As it was a little late in the game to try to cut all this into the soil we decided to just weed it all out and feed it to the pigs.  Oh yes, they loved that rye grass.  They squeeked and grunted as they picked through the piles of grass, finding the best pieces- pigs never save the best for last.

My family took pity on us and our lack of enthusiasm to get the garden in and they came over to help weed and plant.  We managed to get all the weeding finished and our potatos planted before the black flies forced us to retreat back to our porch for a bbq dinner.  Sometimes you just need a little help, ya know?

This past weekend the weather decided to take a break from the rain so Kyle and I decided it was time we finished this project up.  I planted the rest of our seeds while Kyle transplated the rest of the tomatos and peppers that were ready to go.  We still have a good deal of tomato and sweet pepper plants that have been started but just are still too small to move outside I think, they can wait.  I planted the dry black beans, sweet corn, summer squash, spinach, broccoli, bush beans, and our started celery plants.  I'm going to plant another round of carrots soon, once the rain lets up again.

So our garden is officially in.  Of course I still need to get our sunflowers and pumpkins planted, but those are just for fun.  Now its just a matter of getting weeding into my daily routine so we don't let it get out of hand again.

On another note, May is due to kid this weekend, give or take a few days.  Her udder is still small, but she has time.  I think she's just got a single kid in there as she is just so narrow still.  I'm hoping for a buck.  Chutney's doelings are growing strong and Poppy runs up to me each time I go out to the barn.  We ordered our disbudding iron last week so I'm hoping we'll see it soon, their horns are growing and with all the neighbors and small children that we have stopping by to check out our farm we don't want to risk it.

Dear friends (a letter to my lovely readers),

Lovingly Posted by Melissa Wednesday, June 2, 2010 3 comments

Sorry I've been a little sporatic in my blog posts lately, things have just been super hectic at home the past few weeks and my laptop has officially kicked the bucket.  Kyle and I had to finish up our guest room (YES, it really is finished!!) before my father and step-mom came up for the holiday weekend.  We also had to clean up the house (which ended up taking way more time than I really thought it would) and semi-finish the upstairs bathroom.  On top of all this we, of course, have been working on barn stuff.  Kyle made me a milking stand a week ago which I took out for a test run with Chutney a couple days. 

I was planning on starting the bottle-feeding this past weekend, my hope had been that I'd milk a little bit every day up until then just for us to get the hang of it before we really got serious.  But unfortunately, I haven't been feeling well and trudging out to the barn twice a day to fight with a goat and her teats wasn't high on my priority list.  So I'm hoping to give it another go soon because the kids are getting pretty skittish.

Our pigs are growing fast.  Bricktop is definitely still the biggest out of the four boys but the other three really aren't that far behind.  Kyle and I are pretty sure we'll be able to have them all processed before fall, which would be great.  They haven't eaten any other chickens, as far as I have been able to tell, and I hope that our barracade that we created around the dividing gate will continue to be successful.

Speaking of chickens, our second experience of the Cornish crosses is nearing its end.  Our fifty (or so) meat birds are amazing.  Last year when we raised these birds it was too late to put them outside because the weather had turned too cold.  This year they've had free range of the pasture and all the tall grasses.  We started only feeding them for a short time in the morning, forcing them to forage for the rest of the day.  I am always amazed about how healthy they seem compared to our first batch.  These birds are active.  The most common thing you hear about this kind of bird is that they have heart and leg problems, they really can only walk from the feed dish to the water dish, and the rest of the time they have to sit down because of their massive weight.  We experienced exactly this last year and it caused us to think we'd never raise these birds again.  But what a difference a diet can make.  I'll be posting some pictures when I get a chance.

I really do have a bunch to catch you up on- I really would love to show you some before and afters of our guest room and bathroom.  Oh, and we started our garden a few weeks ago, still have a lot to plant, but we've got a beginning at least.  May is due in a few weeks, she started making her udder a week ago.  So much has been going on I can barely remember it all!  Please bear with me, friends, life has really been getting in the way of my blogging but I hope to make a full comeback soon.

Thanks for stopping by!!
Melissa

Pigs. Need I say more?

Lovingly Posted by Melissa Monday, May 24, 2010 0 comments

I had read, before we ever got our pigs, that they could be a problem with our chicken population.  When our four boys arrived we noticed a bit of interest and a couple idle bites in a chicken's direction here and there.  But the laying hens are fast, so the pigs never got more than a couple feathers out of the encounter.  We decided that between the damage they were doing to the floor in the barn, the potential snacking that would be at the chickens' expense, and the lovely smell, it would just be best to keep them in their own shed, in a seperate fenced-in pasture.  This didn't solve all our problems, unfortunately.

First off, I have to say that the damage to the barn has halted completely, minus the one time they got out into the other pasture, went into the barn, and ate all the grain we had.  Second, the smell is nowhere near as bad.  They keep their shed very clean and, thanks to the amount of space they have to move around in, only on occasion do I get an offensive odor wafted in my direction when out by their pasture.

The only thing we haven't been able to halt is the snacking.  Yes, the snacking at our chickens' expense.  There is one spot under a gate where the chickens can squeeze under and if they aren't smart enough to figure out how to get back they are, eventually, picked off.  So far not a single laying hen has been the victim, I'm not sure they could even fit under the gate, it has always been one of our almost two month old chickens.

Two or three times we have come home to find a carpet of feathers in the pigs' pasture.  They were like crop circles, once one showed up out of the blue another one did, then another one.  Then last night our neighbor's daughter stopped by to bring us some food scraps (for the pigs of course) and a few muffins (for us, yippy!) and as we were admiring the new baby goats she asked me if the pigs had a toy.  I wasn't really sure what she meant but as we neared the gate I saw the tell-tale feathers next to their water trough.

It was a horrifying sight.  Two of them had legs hanging out the sides of their mouths as they gnawed through the bones.  The other two had something as well, I tried not to look long enough to identify the body part.  I apologized to the neighbor who was probably sorry that she stopped by on her way back home, although she seemed relatively unphased.

That night Kyle and I discussed the impending downsizing of our pig herd.  We are looking forward to sending Bricktop off to our local animal processer more and more as the days wear on.  He is large enough and he gets the majority of the food.  Hopefully once he is gone we'll be able to focus on the other three, so they will grow faster.  Honestly, this is a great experience but I'm just not sure we want to get pigs again.  There are plenty of people who raise pigs, and I'd rather buy pork from a local co-op than deal with these guys again.  Chickens are so much quieter, they don't eat as much, they don't tear up your land, and they taste delicious.  I love chicken.  But then I think of bacon...oh bacon...

Well, I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

New Additions

Lovingly Posted by Melissa Tuesday, May 18, 2010 9 comments

Friday morning I went out to check on Chutney before I went to work.  I had noticed the night before that her tail ligaments were getting pretty soft so I didn't want to miss the day that they actually "disappeared".  Much to my excitement they were nowhere to be found.  She seemed rather content so I felt confident that she wouldn't kid that morning but I had no basis for comparison to say if she would start going into labor before the end of the day.

I arrived at work at 7 o'clock and immediately started scrambling to get any pertinent items finished.  I had shipments to get out to our manufacturers that I knew couldn't wait until Monday so it wasn't until around noon that I was able to get back home to check on Chutney.  She was calmly munching on hay on the platform in the barn.  After a little while of pacing between the barn and the house waiting for something to change, I decided to open the door to the front paddock that we had fenced off for this occasion.  This way I could sit on the front porch and be able to see the goats.  Sure enough the girls were psyched to get out front where the grass was long and the low tree limbs had yet to be stripped of their leaves.

I tried to busy myself in the house.  After cleaning off our dining room table, which is our catch-all for anything and everything when we come into the house, and starting a load of laundry I decided I couldn't stand it anymore and went back outside.  I sat down in the grass within the paddock and started reading.  I needed to get my mind elsewhere or I would go crazy.  Chutney wasn't progressing at all and I was getting impatient.

The hours dragged on and still no sign from our little doe that she was even thinking of going into labor.  I went to bed restless, worried that they would be born during the night and something would go wrong.  At 3 o'clock in the morning I trudged out to the barn, the air was so warm and I was relieved that the babies would not come into the world in the middle of a hard frost.  I quietly opened the door and found Chutney lying in a bed of straw on the floor, my heart jumped up into my throat at the thought that maybe she was going into labor.  Alas, nothing.  I walked slowly back to the house, enjoying the mild weather, the darkness and quiet of the early morning hour.  But I needed to get some sleep.

Two hours later I gave up on my attempts to "sleep in", got dressed, and headed back out.  I kept wishing I had the same calm patience that my husband has.  Chutney still hadn't started going into labor, but when I felt her tail ligaments I noticed that I must have been wrong yesterday in thinking that they were 'gone' because they were certainly nowhere to be found this time.  She would kid before Sunday, of that I was certain.

Throughout the morning Chutney was obviously restless.  She didn't want to leave the barn, she continually cried out if someone wasn't in the barn with her, she didn't want to eat anything, and her udder was large and hard.  It appeared she was getting ready.  After hours of waiting I got annoyed with myself and went with Kyle to the gas station to get fuel for the lawn tractor, I had to stop hovering.  We got back and I checked her again, still nothing, so I went back into the house to warm up some apple cider before I went back into the barn to continue my surveillance.

Upon my return I found her lying on the floor of the barn and she was obviously pushing.  I ran out, and yelled to Kyle who was mowing the lower yard.  He saw me and calmly waved his understanding and slowly started making his way up the path to the barn.  I don't know how he can be so calm.  I ran back to the barn and arrived to see the front hooves and nose peeking out.  Chutney was about to become a mother.  Two seconds later a tiny, slippery kid came out and I cleaned its face off to be sure it could breathe before I stuck it in front of Chutney.  Her instincts kicked in amazingly and she immediately set to cleaning the kid off.  I was so proud. 

I took a closer look and announced to Kyle that we had a doeling!  Hooray, our herd has officially expanded.  But man this little girl was tiny, if they're all this small she's probably got five in there.  After a few minutes the doeling was relatively dry and started wobbling around trying to find the udder to start nursing.  Kyle went back to mowing while I tried to help her steady herself and nurse but Chutney was restless.  I wrapped the doeling into a dry towel and started rubbing her because she was just shivering and Chutney was distracted.  She kept lying down and getting back up, she started pushing again and I ran to get Kyle as he had asked me to do.  Thirty seconds later we got back in the barn and the second kid was on the ground.  I quickly cleaned of the face again with some paper towels and plopped this significantly larger kid in front of Chutney to get her cleaned off.  From the size of this baby I assumed it was a buck, but no, a second doeling!  These two look just like Chutney, same coloring with only slight variations on the white patches.  How cute.
Shortly after the second doeling was born a third practically shot right out.  This one was just as large as the second doeling but was a dark brown color.  I hoped it was a buck, but it just wasn't in the cards this time, a third doeling.  Chutney was still working on cleaning off doeling #2 so I cleaned off doeling #3 just enough to be able to move around until Chutney could get to her.

Once everyone was dried off we moved them over to the heat lamp (Saturday ended up a little too breezy and cool for newborn babies) where Chutney could get fresh water and hay and the babies could nurse without getting cold.  Within ten minutes all had nursed successfully and quickly fell asleep under the watchful eye of our new mama-goat.

Everyone is doing great and we are just as proud as can be with the new additions to our farm.  The doelings, who we named Poplar, Juniper, and Willow, are already bouncing around and climbing on anything and everything they can get their hooves on.

So in about one more month it will be May's turn but until then I'll be trying not to spend all my free time in the barn holding baby goats.  =D

Chutney

Chutney
Our first "kid"

Chickens

Chickens
We have four Dominiques, four Black Australorps, and four Easter-Eggers