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

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

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


May and I enjoying some sunshine


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.