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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The calm after the storm.

Lovingly Posted by Melissa Thursday, February 25, 2010 0 comments

As I'm sure you've noticed, I've been ready for Spring for over a month now.  We started some seeds, which are doing remakably well compared to previous attempts at seed-starting (don't get too excited, mostly just herbs, some hot peppers, and some tomatos to grow in the house).  The little snow we had was melting fast and I would say that half of our land was grass or spotty snow.  Just last week I saw the first of the spring flowers popping up through the ground.  I was getting excited for the girls who must be really looking forward to some nice fresh grass after all these months of hay and grain.

But, alas, we suffered a major set-back in this department yesterday when I awoke to a foot of wet snow on the ground and plenty more falling.  We donned our winter gear and headed out to see if we could get the snowblower going.  After ten minutes of frustration in the realization that the auger wouldn't be able to handle the heavy, wet snow, we gave in and I called in to work.

Though I wasn't exactly psyched to get such a significant snowfall, I have to admit, it was truly beautiful.  After giving up on the snowblower and its deafening noise as it choked through the snow back to its parking spot, we headed to the barn to feed everyone an early breakfast.  The sun hadn't yet come up and we enjoyed some quiet time before the world awoke. 

The girls happily munched away at their breakfast of grain and some nice second-cut hay that we found at Guys Farm and Yard over in Morrisville a few days ago.  The chickens scratched away at the ground, finding grain and bits of stuff we unearthed after cleaning out half of the old straw this past weekend.  The pigs, in their own shed, grunted and squeeked through their mix of grain and food scraps.

There is something just so pleasant about the sound of contently eating farm animals.  I think it is partially due to the frantic moments before everyone is fed, while everyone is demanding their breakfast, that we come to really appreciate the quiet afterwards.  We rush to feed the pigs before their squealing could bother the neighbors, and we quickly feed the goats before we're covered in hoof prints, then finally cast out grain for the chickens before they start trying to steal from the pigs and the goats.  Once its all said and done, and everyone has fresh, clean water, we can sit back and enjoy the peace.

Our life doesn't seem to lend itself to too many moments of peace.  There is always laundry to do, dishes to wash, dogs to exercise, animals to feed, pigs to move from the barn to their shed, water buckets to fill, eggs to collect, reading/studying to do, goats to check on, home renovations to tackle, not to mention our full-time jobs.  So, during these quiet moments before the sun comes up and the sense of urgency to get to work (in one sense or another)arises, we find a second to stand still, hold hands, and breathe deep.

Whats the buzz? Bzzz bzzzz bzzzzzzz

Lovingly Posted by Melissa Friday, February 19, 2010 4 comments


I ORDERED MY BEES TODAY!!!

So I sent in my deposit for my 3# package of bees today; they'll be ready for pickup in early April.  I can't wait!  All I need to do now is finish painting the outside of the hive and we'll be all set to get started.

Just the thought of fresh honey makes me crave a cup of tea...or an english muffin...some plain yogurt...or fried chicken.  Ok, stopping before I get too hungry here.  But this is one more step to get us to our self-sustaining goal.  And perhaps eventually we'll be able to sell honey from the house along with the eggs (and maybe even some pork)- added income is always welcome.

You can be sure, once these girls arrive, there will be plenty of pictures of yours-truly posted showing the newbie 'installing' the bees into their hive.  It'll be great, and I'm sure we'll all be in for a good laugh.

picture borrowed from Endangered Bees

A final push to get the pigs out of the barn.

Lovingly Posted by Melissa Wednesday, February 17, 2010 2 comments

Whew.  Can I get a 'woo hoo' for three-day weekends?  Thank ya.  Wow, what a weekend.  We were fully booked on Saturday when Guy (my father-in-law) came over to help Kyle fix the truck.  After a few hours they successfully replaced the timing belt, changed the oil and the radiator fluid (upon inspection it was relatively black).  I was happy to know I would no longer have to wait patiently (read: somewhat IMpatiently) at work for my darling hubby to pick me up.

After working outside in the frigid temps, not to mention the wind that is ever-prevaling at our house, they were finished and Guy headed out to do some last-minute shopping for our neice's birthday party that night.  Kyle and I had a quick lunch of sausage/lentil soup with some cornbread muffins before settling in to take a quick nap before heading to Georgia for the party.  Its amazing how hot soup will knock you out after spending the day outside in the cold.  Luckily, my groggy head quickly dissapated after a few minutes of visiting with excited children (my neices and nephews are the sweetest kids ever).

On our way back home we stopped by Kyle's brother's house where we scored some venison, maple syrup (Sean makes it every year), and a basket of acorns Sean had saved for us to feed our pigs.  Yeah, I have some great in-laws.  After a long week it was great to get home and know we still had two more days off that we would spend just the two of us.

After having a relaxing day on Sunday we decided to get some work done.  After filling in holes left by the pigs in the floor of our barn twice we figured that since it was such a beautiful day (and would continue to be mild for the rest of the week at least) we might as well get the pigs into their new shed.  Problem being: the shed wasn't finished.  We headed to the local building supply where we picked up a few sheets of plywood and got to work.

We fastened two sheets across the roof to help support the metal roofing, then covered the front.  As Kyle was cutting out the openings for the windows on the front of the shed we began to notice that there was something not quite right.  We knew we still needed to level the base- so perhaps that is why the openings for the windows looked so crooked.  After leveling everything (I definitely recommending doing this BEFORE weighing it down too much) we took another look.  Sure enough, the corners of the windows were not really on the diagonals so much as they were going vertically and horizontally.  I couldn't stop laughing at the sight despite my frustration- I sincerely wish I had taken a picture because it almost looked intentional- .  But, it was not, and we immediately started taking down the front of the shed to repair it.

Somewhere along the line we had put up a header that was too short, resulting in the entire shed being squeezed in at the top of the front.  So, as we were making everything square on one side, it was getting more and more UNsquare on the other side.  A word of advice: always be sure you actually draw up plans to scale before building something like this.  We've been flying by the seats of our proverbial pants and look where it has gotten us.

We ran back to the building supply store to get another couple sheets of plywood (the previous ones becoming useless for this particular project since we already had cut them to fit in the incorrect shapes).  As soon as we put in the longer header we were golden.  After another hour we were fastening in the two windows on the front of our south-facing pig shelter.  We grabbed a few wheelbarrow loads of their old bed in the barn and tossed it in there to help it feel more like home.  Along with a full, clean bale of straw, the place was feeling pretty darned cozy so we decided it was now or never: time to move the boys.

It took a good ten minutes before I was able to successfully lure them over to their new house.  They wanted their food and they didn't want to take a walk to get it.  But, I won, and they've been spending the nights in their new shed ever since.  We've been blocking the doorway to keep them in there at night, just until they start to realize that its their home.  During the day they've been going back in the barn to sleep, which is fine for now.  We'll be finishing up gates eventually so they can't go in and harrass the goats.

The only thing we have left to do is fasten on our scrap metal roofing that we salvaged from the big demolition from last year, which shouldn't take too long.  Oh, and hope our neighbors don't hate us forever...these little guys can make quite a bit of noise when they're ready to eat...yikes.

Animal Farm

Lovingly Posted by Melissa Thursday, February 11, 2010 5 comments



Have you ever read George Orwell's Animal Farm?  Great book.  Seriously creepy, but very interesting.  Basically the pigs get all the farm animals to drive the farmer away and take over the farm themselves.  Eventually, at the end of the book, the pigs start walking upright and live in the house and drink whiskey like the farmer had done before them.  The original goal had been to create a utopia where all animals are equal and do their part- but the pigs are corrupt and therefore their revolution falls to pieces and the rest of the farm animals are right back to where they started, if not worse.

Anways, its a good book.  At the heart of it, it really isn't about farm animals at all, but thats another discussion by someone much more versed in political satire than I.  But it still has a good story.  Take good care of your animals or they might revolt and drive you out of the house, breed evil dogs, kill your horse, and then start drinking your whiskey.

BIG NEWS! OINK OINK!

Lovingly Posted by Melissa Sunday, February 7, 2010 4 comments

Big goings-on around the farm lately.  A couple weekends ago we started working on our pig shelter so we could get started on our pork production.  We wanted to get them before Spring while the prices were still low on feeder pigs.  But we didn't really want to keep them in the barn with the chickens and goats for various reasons, so we thought they'd better have their own little place to call home.

We decided to build a floor for the shelter to try to help keep the pigs cleaner and dryer- in hopes that it would keep them warmer for the rest of this Winter.  We spent some money at the lumber mill on some pressure-treated 2x4s for the decking frame (I know, probably overkill, but we figure if it holds up until after the pigs are gone we might convert it to a buck house when we have some boy goats on the farm.) but other than that the structure would be a basic pine and plywood job with some salvaged metal roofing to top it off.

It went up pretty quick, although we did run into a few problems here and there because we didn't draw up any plans, so it was kind of piece it together as we go.  But our speed-square always came to our rescue.  Over the course of a couple weeks we were able to get the walls all built and covered but we've yet to start putting on the roofing.  Because the truck has died we haven't been able to get the rest of the materials we need- mainly a couple more sheets of plywood that don't exactly fit in the Scion.  So we've been put on hold.

But today I think we might try to put the roofing on without the plywood to go beneath it- its probably overkill anyways.  We're going to try to move the structure to be within one of our fenced in pastures.  Its going to be a pain since we'll have to take the walls off (thank goodness for screws) but I'm feeling more motivated now.  'Why?' do you ask?  Well my dear friend, because we've got some little bacon bits that need a home.  Thats right, folks, we've got some piggies in the barn.

Yesterday we decided to go for it.  After finding out that half of the people selling $40 pigs were sold-out we figured we'd best get our butts in gear before we found ourselves paying more than double that.  We made a trip to Fairfield were an old-time farmer had something like fifty feeder pigs for sale.  Now, remember I told you that the truck has been broken down?  Well, I almost hate to admit it, but we strung a tarp up within the car and layed down some straw- yep, they were going to ride home in the back of the Scion.

Let me introduce you to the gang.

First off is Brick Top (seen here on the left of the picture), he's the biggest of the group and seems to be really taking charge.  He's got some nice coloring with a band of white between his red coat, and a couple little black spots on his rear end.  Next to him, the little black-spotted guy in the center, is Boris the Butcher. 

Next up we've got Freddy Four Fingers, all red and the loudest screamer of the bunch he's also the smallest and sort of the low man on the totem pole so far.










Last but not least, check out the gray and black spotted guy on the top of the heap here in the barn.  This, my friends, is Gorgeous George.  Yep, this is how we found all these tough guys this morning, all cuddled together in a nice big nest they built.


Needless to say, the goats weren't thrilled last night when these boys arrived.  So we felt compelled to block off half the barn to keep them separated, but everyone seemed alright this morning.  Hopefully by the end of the day we'll be able to move the boys out of the girls house so we can all live in peace again.

So what do you think?  I feel a little crazy myself.  I honestly never thought I'd own pigs...they're not my favorite farm animal...but I do love bacon.  Speaking of which, I think I need to get myself some breakfast.

Forcing Spring

Lovingly Posted by Melissa Tuesday, February 2, 2010 2 comments

Ok, I just can't stand it anymore.  I mean, I love winter, the snow is gorgeous, it helps keep the house warmer, and it's fun.  But seriously, I can't stand the cold anymore.  Kyle's truck has died and we've spent too much time freezing in the sub-zero wind gusts trying to figure out why (more than likely something related to the cold).  We've lost too many eggs to the frigid temperatures and I'm sick of having to supplement feed with so much grain.  Our kids need grass.  I am ready for Spring!!!!!! 

I know today is Groundhog Day...and Phil has officially proclaimed six more weeks of winter...but I've got a news flash: I DON'T CARE!!  Mwah ha haaa (maniacal laugh inserted here)!   Spring never comes early up here so even if he had forecast an early spring, it wouldn't apply to us folks up here in Northern VT anyways.  Best case scenario: we won't really see Spring until May, we need get through mud-season first.  Regardless, I'm determined to hurry this season along.  It was a welcomed guest, but its time to show it the door.

This past weekend, Kyle and I made a run to Gardener's Supply Company, an awesome, employee-owned, local gardening supply store.  We thought we'd grab some house plants (they're having a sale: buy two, get one free) and while we were there we picked up a handful of seed packets to start inside the house.  I was planning on just doing one big order on High Mowing Seeds website, but I just couldn't wait any longer.  I'll order the rest of our seeds online, probably later this month, but I wanted something in-hand to start right off.  We came home with paste tomatoes, Ring-of-Fire hot peppers, basil, parsley, rosemary, and lavender.  We also grabbed some Provider bush beans, Chamomile and Echinacea that we'll start later next month.

I'm planning the garden alot more than I did last year.  I'm reading more about companion planting and non-tilling, non-weeding options.  The garden was the biggest disappointment of last year.  I make no claims that I am a good gardener- I'm actually pretty terrible at it.  I'm more interested in animal husbandry and I think it shows: my livestock is thriving.  But it also shows in the garden: it's always overrun by weeds and I don't harvest what little there is to harvest in time so some things end up going to seed (which I don't realize until things start sprouting after we've turned everything under for the year).

We've also spent quite a bit of time working on our pig shelter.  Its relatively large, too big really for the size the pigs will be when we buy them.  So unless we really pack it with mulch hay these little piggies will probably spend the first month or two in the barn where it will be a little warmer.  We're planning on picking up the new additions to the farm this Saturday.  I'm pretty excited about it.  I know they're going to be meat for our table, but until then they can till our garden and enjoy the dappled sunshine in the little grove behind our house.  They will be happy, which makes me happy.

This is going to be a big, busy year.  It will be the first time keeping bees and raising turkeys and pigs.  It will be the first time our goats will kid, so it will be the first time bottle-feeding babies and milking goats.  I've worked at a dairy before, so I've done the twice-a-day milking, but never in conjunction with raising so many other animals, gardening, and beekeeping.  And of course, on top of that we're still renovating our house and working full time jobs.

Do I feel overwelmed?  Nope.  Well, not yet, give it some time.  Spring is rejuvenating after waking up from a long winter slumber.  I'm ready to wake up.  How about you?